Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Are you following up on the Swine Flu?

Last weekend while enjoying my get away in Palm Springs, I saw the news covering the cases of Swine Flu in Mexico and the US on CNN. I knew at that point that this was going to become the next big health topic for the next few weeks. Each day the cases grow and the concern deepens as the number of infected people increases. Now, the discussion/debate is whether it should be considered as an epidemic or pandemic alert.

An epidemic affects a large portion of a population in a community or region at the same time. If the cases of the Swine Flu were only reported in Mexico, it may be considered as an epidemic.

Pandemic is a sudden outbreak that spreads rather quickly throughout a whole region, continent, or the world. For example, the cases of the Swine Flu are currently recorded in Mexico, U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, Israel, Spain and New Zealand and there may be more countries reporting the outbreak shortly.

There are levels of issuing a pandemic alert:

Levels 1-3 are for the animals that infect each other with very few cases of human infection.

Level 4 takes the human to human contact – human to animal contact which in turn affects a community.

Levels 5/6 is the widespread human infection.

Post Peak - monitors the period after the cases have dropped and continues to monitor to see if there is a second wave of new cases.

Post Pandemic – time to prepare for the next possible outbreak by taking the proper steps to handle any future occurrences.

The Swine Flu is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease on pigs which can then be transmitted to humans who are exposed to the infected swine and then through human to human contact. The symptoms are similar to having the flu – feeling feverish, lethargic, no appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Unfortunately, the death tolls have risen within the last few days in Mexico. Although there are no deaths reported from the other countries, we must all take note of the outbreak and prepare to follow the proper cautionary steps as advised by the health care professionals/health care governmental agencies. It is also important to note that there are no vaccines available for humans at this time.

One simple rule that is always advised even by your parents, wash your hands. It is also advised that you refrain from traveling while under the weather. It’s a tough call especially if you are all packed and ready to go on a great escape. However, an ounce of prevention is certainly worth more that a pound of cure. Do not dismiss the news coverage as something that does not or will not affect you. Know the symptoms and follow through with a call to your doctor or a visit to the closest emergency room.

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