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Swine Flu: Stay Home If You Feel Sick

Monday, May 4, 2009

Swine Influenza is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond a few people.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people. Symptoms for swine flu include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

WHERE is it happening

The World Health Organization (WHO) is coordinating the global response to human cases of H1N1. In its fifth update as of 18:00 GMT, April 29, 9 countries have officially reported 148 cases swine influenza A/H1N1 infection. Mexico has reported 26 confirmed human cases of infection, including 7 deaths. The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths: Canada 13 New Zealand 3 the United Kingdom 5 Austria 1 Germany 3 Israel 2) and Spain 4). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC as of April 30 at 10:30 am ET, the United States has 109 confirmed cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) with one death. The more recent illnesses and the reported death suggest that a pattern of more severe illness associated with this virus may be emerging in the US.

Dr. Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director-General raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5. In her statement on April 29, she stated that all countries should immediately activate their pandemic preparedness plans. At this stage, effective and essential measures include heightened surveillance, early detection and treatment of cases and INFECTION CONTROL in all health facilities. This change to a higher phase of alert is a signal to governments, to ministries of health and other ministries, to the pharmaceutical indistry and the business community that certain actions should now be undertaken with increased urgency, and at an accelerated pace. At this point, WHO recommended NOT to restrict international travel. It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention.

Although not an official governmental source, Google Maps has an interesting video map showing the swine flu current and future evolution. Please note the color key.
HOW does it spread

Spread of swine flu is thought to be happening the same way that seasonal flu spreads; mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Swine flu viruses are NOT spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.

Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.

Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.
HOW can we prevent it

CDC recommends that affected states with at least one laboratory-confirmed case of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection consider activating community mitigation interventions for affected communities.

For those states WITHOUT laboratory-confirmed cases of H1N1 virus, use these everyday steps to protect your health:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

* If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

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