Monday, April 27, 2009

UPDATE 8 Swine Flu- The current WHO phase of pandemic alert is 4- What It Means

***UPDATE 8*** The current WHO phase of pandemic alert is 4

Phase 4 is characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause “community-level outbreaks.” The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic. Any country that suspects or has verified such an event should urgently consult with WHO so that the situation can be jointly assessed and a decision made by the affected country if implementation of a rapid pandemic containment operation is warranted. Phase 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion.

Original Post
OK- Don't panic. That's the main thing to remember in all of this but its good to be informed. As usual, the biggest weapon against this is simply washing your hands. And doing it right. It also appears that the cases reported in the US are milder than those reported in Mexico.

Also as the WSJ reports, the fact that more and more are being reported doesn't neccessarily mean its spreading faster:

The fact that five more cases have now been confirmed isn’t an indication of the rate at which the flu is spreading; rather, it’s the result of intensive surveillance by the CDC and state health officials to try to figure out exactly what’s going on. And that surveillance is likely to lead to more confirmed cases in the coming days, Anne Schuchat, a CDC respiratory diseases expert, said on a press call this afternoon.
Indeed, the very fact that this strain was identified in the first place is likely the result of the way flu surveillance has increased in the past few years. The first two cases were both detected by special programs — one at a Navy facility that was studying a new kind of flu testing, and another at a project set up to do intensive surveillance around the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We haven’t seen this strain before, but we haven’t been looking as intensively as we are these days,” Schuchat said. (more)

Previous post

Officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Department of Public Health said they expected to find more cases in the coming days and weeks.
Little can be done to prevent an outbreak of flu from spreading, health experts caution, but they say common sense measures can help individuals protect themselves.
Number one is hand-washing, they say -- a surprisingly effective way to prevent all sorts of diseases, including ordinary influenza and the new and mysterious swine flu virus.

The first place one should go for information is to government sources such as the Center for Disease Control but it appears that much of the information on the site is on the incidence of Swine Flu up till February 2009 and does not yet address the latest mutant strain of bird/pig/human which has people concerned. The report on the new strain can also be found on the CDC website with some digging or you can go here.

Special guidance has been provided for Texas and California residents. Once again much of this is common sense but very important to prevent spreading the infection:

Residents of California and Texas

CDC has identified human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in people in these areas. CDC is working with local and state health agencies to investigate these cases. We have determined that this virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, we have not determined how easily the virus spreads between people. As with any infectious disease, we are recommending precautionary measures for people residing in these areas.

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 hands cleaners are also effective.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

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

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

There is no vaccine available at this time, so it is important for people living in these areas to take steps to prevent spreading the virus to others. If people are ill, they should attempt to stay at home and limit contact with others. Healthy residents living in these areas should take everyday preventive actions.

People who live in these areas who develop an illness with fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose, and possibly other symptoms, such as body aches, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, should contact their health care provider. Their health care provider will determine whether influenza testing is needed.

Even as our responsible journalists lead with calm inducing headlines such as:

Swine Flu Case Count Rising , Swine flu has 'pandemic potential and Mexico Swine Flu Epidemic Worries World

it is important to remember that all seven of the people in the U.S. with confirmed swine flu recovered. Only one patient was ill enough to require hospitalization. The swine flu disease was similar to human flu, except that nausea and diarrhea were more common. But as all forms of flu it would pose special danger to the elderly, the young and those with chronic illness such as diabetes and asthma.

Still the World Health Organization (WHO) is set to name this outbreak an Event of International Concern

While this is a rapidly changing situation the world is presently in phase 3, meaning a new influenza virus subtype is causing disease in humans, but is not yet spreading efficiently and sustainably among humans.

*** UPDATE 7*** CDC reported at their news conference today (26 April) that all of the seven confirmed cases here in the US have recovered and reminded people of basic precautions e.g. handwashing and staying home from work if you are sick) to minimize the spread.

***UPDATE 6*** U.S. officials say the public health emergency is a precaution. Americans are told to prepare for outbreaks but not to panic.

Federal officials today declared a public health emergency involving human swine flu, warning Americans to prepare for widespread outbreaks now or in the future, yet urging them not to panic.

Update to #3 the British Airways pilot DID NOT have the swine Flu

UPDATE 5- Bloomberg:

Obama’s Visit
The first case was seen in Mexico on April 13. The outbreak coincided with the President Barack Obama’s trip to Mexico City on April 16. Obama was received at Mexico’s anthropology museum in Mexico City by Felipe Solis, a distinguished archeologist who died the following day from symptoms similar to flu, Reforma newspaper reported. The newspaper didn’t confirm if Solis had swine flu or not.

8:09PM ***UPDATE 3*** Reports of Swine Flu experiences in Mexico,
Texas state health authorities on Saturday ordered a high school near San Antonio closed indefinitely after a third student showed symptoms of swine flu
British airways pilot being treated in isolation after flight from Mexico
If this thing spreads overseas you can be sure the WHO will elevate its phase level. (see below

4:16 PM***UPDATE 2*** The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has confirmed at least two cases of swine flu in their state, while the New York City Department of Public Health is reporting that at least eight out of an estimated 100 students at a Queens prepatory school who displayed flu-like symptoms likely have the infection. Meanwhile, Imperial County health officials reported that San Diego has yet another case of the swine flu strain that has killed up to 68 people in Mexico.
5:29 PMTotals are now 11 cases confirmed and another 8 possible in NY

1235 CDT ***UPDATE*** The WHO flu experts have met and other than asking countries to keep an eye on things, taken no action.

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