Swine Flu and You
By Jullie Chung, Managing Editor
The World Health Organization has raised the pandemic alert level as cases of swine flu continue to manifest in more countries including Spain, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Israel. However, the elevated alert level does not qualify swine flu as a full-blown pandemic but rather indicates its level of transmission through human-to-human contact. Though transmission is significant this does not mean pandemic proportions are inevitable.
Swine flu first manifested in Mexico City where 152 fatalities have been attributed to the outbreak as of April 28, 2009. The United States has reported 91 cases, 28 of which include a body of students from Queens, New York returning from a class trip to Cancun, Mexico. As of April 30, 2009, there has been one fatality attributed to the virus in the United States. This fatality was a 23 month old infant in Texas. Though the child was in the United States at time of passing, he/she had recently entered the United States from Mexico.
One of the greatest questions asked is: how do I know if I have swine flu? According to the Center for Disease Control common symptoms include fever, coughing, sore throat, body aches, chills, headache, and fatigue. Swine flu can often be accompanied by vomiting and severe intestinal distress as well. It may be difficult to discern at first as symptoms are very similar to ordinary flu. A good indicator, however, is rapid temperature increase and a fever above 101.5°F.
Since swine flu is transmitted person-to-person in much the same way as “standard” influenza, steps to prevent catching the virus are also very much the same: wash your hands regularly with soap, avoid contact with people already sick, avoid touching communal contact surfaces, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and wash your hands immediately after, drink lots of fluids, and stay well rested.
Prescription antiviral drugs have been proven to help alleviate symptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency authorization for expanded use of the antiviral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza. Additionally, the CDC’s Division of Strategic National Stockpile has released one quarter of its antiviral drugs in addition to personal protective equipment and respiratory protection devices to help contain and control the virus in outbreak areas.
The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization continue to investigate the outbreak and work towards definitive solutions for prevention and control of the virus. But the best prevention at present is awareness and taking simple steps towards avoiding contact with the virus. Above all, if you feel ill or come down with flu like symptoms, the CDC strongly urges you stay home and avoid contact with others.