Swine Influenza is a respiratory disease that is found, in pigs and was first identified in 1930. Flu outbreaks in pigs are common, but this new swine flu is a horse, or shall we say a pig of a different color.
All kidding aside, the swine flu has now become a global threat to humans around the world. Public health officials have long predicted and anticipated a global flu epidemic that would kill millions around the world much like the Spanish flu that took 20 million to 50 million lives in 1918. You might remember, in 1976, when soldiers at Fort Dix became sick with a rare and unusual form of swine flu, 40 million Americans were vaccinated with the swine flu vaccine.
An epidemic never occurred but thousands of people suffered serious side effects from the vaccine. Could this swine flu that has captured the attention of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) be the big one? The answer is, we don’t know and it is still too early to tell.
New cases of confirmed or suspect cases of swine flu (H1N1), a type A influenza virus, are surfacing in the United States, Canada, Spain and as far away as New Zealand.
Mexico, the center of the outbreak, has had 103 confirmed deaths and the virus has sickened more than 1,600 people since April 13.
Here in the United States, government officials expect to see more cases of the swine flu with potentially serious infections and possibly deaths according to governmental sources. So far, the 20 confirmed cases in the U.S. have been mild with only one hospitalization according to Dr. Richard Bessar, acting director of the CDC. Dr. Bessar stated, “We do think this will continue to spread, but we are taking aggressive actions to minimize the impact on people’s health.”
Worldwide attention has focused on travelers as all of the initial confirmed cases of swine flu had recently traveled to Mexico. Dr Robert Strang, chief public health officer in Nova Scotia stated, “It was acquired in Mexico, brought home and spread.” On Sunday, April 26, U.S. officials declared a public health emergency which, if needed, will begin shipping 12 million doses of antiviral medications from a federal stockpile to the individual states.
Symptoms of the swine flu may include fever of more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, body aches, sore throat, coughing, respiratory congestion, vomiting and diarrhea. What has caused the greatest concern is that the swine flu can be transmitted from human-to-human when someone who is symptomatic with the virus comes in contact with another person. Many of the deaths in Mexico have been in young, healthy people which is of grave concern. There is no predicting how this virus will run its course.
Countries, including the United States, are increasing their surveillance methods to detect the swine flu.
Airports will begin screenings and isolating any travelers coming from infected areas of Mexico with flu-like symptoms. Frequent hand-washing is also recommended while traveling. While the U.S. is currently not restricting travel to Mexico, it could change if the situation changes according to Janet Napolitano, secretary of Homeland Security. Slowing down the transmission of the virus is crucial.
Currently, there is not a vaccine available for the swine flu and the flu vaccine given last winter offers no protection to the virus. However, there may be some immunity to older people who have been exposed to the various type A strains in the past, but not the H1N1 strain of the swine flu. Currently, the CDC has taken the initial first step in producing a vaccine, if needed.
Diagnosis is confirmed by a positive respiratory specimen. The specimen should be collected within the first four to five days of flu-like symptoms when the person infected with the virus is shedding the virus. The CDC is requesting all specimens be sent to them for laboratory testing.
The CDC is recommending that the first line of treating the swine flu virus is the antiviral medication Tamiflu (Oseltamivir). The medication should be taken as soon as the flu-like symptoms appear and the CDC is stating that Tamiflu appears to be effective. The CDC is recommending that if you have mild flu-like symptoms, stay home as to not infect others. Wash hands frequently in order to prevent transmission of the virus from person to person and the wearing of surgical masks by family members who come in close contact with the infected patient will also prevent transmission.
If you have recently traveled to Mexico and are experiencing severe flu-like symptoms accompanied by a fever, please seek medical attention. For further information on the swine flu virus, you can contact your local public health department, access the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov. or the WHO at www.who.gov.
Diversified Solutions is your local flu vaccine provider, one of the largest providers of flu vaccine in Arizona providing vaccines to more than 12,000 school teachers and businesses statewide. Diversified Solutions will be offering flu vaccine in the fall, so remember to call (928) 472-3388 for an appointment in September and October.