For the past week or so, we have been hearing about Swine Flu. I figured it was time to write about how to keep yourself safe.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Swine Flu is a respiratory disease which is found in pigs. People don’t normally get this type of flu, but human infections do happen. Symptoms are similar to those brought on by the regular human flu including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Sometimes diarrhea and vomiting have also been reported. It can cause pneumonia and respiratory failure, and may worsen underlying chronic medical conditions.
In late March through early April 2009, cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus were first reported in Southern California and near San Antonio, TX. The first clusters of the virus appeared in Mexico where the disease has taken many lives. This may be because of the number of people who came down with the virus there and the speed in which it spread. Swine flu is now in many countries including the U.S. In fact, at least 10 states in the U.S. have confirmed states with many more suspected cases waiting for confirmation from the CDC. As of the date of this post, one child has died in Texas. The child was from Mexico being treated in a Texas hospital.
Here are some ways to help avoid contracting the disease.
- Stay home if you have flu symptoms and to keep children home from school and daycare if they show symptoms. At today’s CDC press briefing, Richard Besser, MD, Acting Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested other members of a family with a confirmed case of swine flu should also stay home “because there's a chance that they could be brewing the infection.”
- One of the most important preventive measures is washing your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used if water is unavailable. Gels and hand wipes work well, too, as long as they contain at least 60% alcohol.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Cough into the crook of your arm if you do not have a tissue.
- Keep your hands away from your face and teach children to do the same. Avoid touching your mouth, nose or eyes where the virus can be passed through mucus membranes (just like a cold or the regular human flu).
- Do not share drinking cups or food with anyone even if you do not suspect illness.
Schools and other public places are working with health officials to maintain infection control practices, but if several cases of swine flu are confirmed or suspected, schools and public events may be cancelled in the interest of protecting public health and limiting the spread of this virus.
Keep an eye on the spread of the disease and other updates provided by the CDC by visiting http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/swineflu_you.htm. It is updated regularly. While we should not be alarmed, we should remain alert and follow the guidelines listed above in order to prevent the spread of swine flu.
Be alert, but not alarmed.