US Officials See Hopeful Signs Although Swine Flu Cases Increase
< May. 06, 2009 > -- This morning, confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States climbed to 642 in 41 states. Federal health officials say the revised numbers indicate they are catching up on a backlog of lab tests, rather than a sudden rise in new infections.
While insisting that American are not out of the woods, Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), says, "We are seeing a lot of encouraging signs."
"So far the severity of illness we are seeing in this country is very similar to what we see with seasonal flu. And that's encouraging information," Dr. Besser says. "It appears that things are leveling off in Mexico," he adds.
According to Dr. Besser, some of the factors that have been associated with more severe disease in previous pandemics, are not present. Also, the testing process to diagnose the virus is faster now. "We have distributed test kits to every state and this will allow for more rapid diagnosis at the state level," says Dr. Besser.
Viewpoint of the World Health Organization
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that it is too early for countries to ease up on efforts to control the outbreak, but added that there were no immediate plans to raise the pandemic alert level.
WHO reported this morning that the swine flu continues to spread around the globe, with 22 countries reporting 1,516 confirmed cases. Mexico tops the list with 822 laboratory-confirmed cases of the infection, including 29 deaths. The US is second on the list with 403 confirmed cases, including two deaths - a 23-month-old Mexican boy who had traveled to Houston last month for medical treatment, and a 33 year old woman, also in Texas.
Currently, the WHO has labeled the outbreak as a Phase 5. This means the disease - the virus, in this situation - is spreading throughout communities in at least two countries in one of WHO's six regions - the United States and Mexico. In a Phase 6 outbreak, the geographic spread of the disease would have to occur in at least one other country in a different region.
Flu Season in the Fall
US officials are trying to determine if this never-before-seen virus will return, or if it will return in a more dangerous form when the regular flu season begins again later this year. Health officials are concerned that humans may have no natural immunity to the pathogen, because it is a genetic mix of pig, bird, and human flu strains.
Federal health officials will be examining outcomes of this virus - officially designated H1N1 - to predict its effects in the fall by monitoring what happens in the Southern Hemisphere, where the flu season is just beginning. "That will tell us a lot about whether the virus is changing, whether it's becoming more severe and what measures we might want to take in the fall," Dr. Besser says.
According to the CDC, new testing of strains of the swine flu virus, as well as previously tested strains, has confirmed that the pathogen remains susceptible to two common antiviral drugs - Tamiflu and Relenza.
Frightened by the prospects of the swine flu, Americans are buying up the two antiviral medicines, whether they have the virus or not. This action has led to a large increase in sales of these drugs in the US.
Recommendations for School Closings
The CDC has revised recommendations for school closings. Schools are advised to remain opened even if there has been a suspected or confirmed case of the virus. School closure is recommended if there is a high volume of absenteeism among faculty or students that interferes with the school's ability to stay open.
Schools that have been closed may reopen based on the revised recommendations by the CDC.
The US Education Department reported that more than 430 schools had closed, affecting about 245,000 children.
St. Francis Preparatory School, a Catholic school in New York City, reopened for classes on Monday after being closed for one week. Dr. Thomas Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner, reported that 73 cases of swine flu were confirmed in the city and six probable cases are awaiting diagnosis. The majority of the cases has ties to St. Francis, a few have been linked to Mexico, and three cases have not been linked to either.
Always consult your physician for more information.
For more information on health and wellness, please visit health information modules on this Web site.
Tips for Staying Healthy at Work
As a person goes to work every day, he or she often think about outstanding tasks and interactions with co-workers. Most people may not think much about their health and safety on the job, but they probably should.
Colds and other viral infections can spread quickly and can affect productivity, and more than 3 million disabling accidents occur in American workplaces every year. To avoid being sidelined by an illness or injury, start taking action today.
Colds and flu are caused by viruses that can pass easily from one person to another when someone sneezes or coughs or handles objects contaminated with a virus.
Some viruses can live up to three hours on phones, doorknobs and desks. Because most adults average about two to four colds a year, there's a good chance that germs may abound in many workplaces.
In a person can help limit their exposure with these tips:
If an individual gets sick, should he or she still go to work? Sometimes staying at home is a better idea, especially if a person has a fever, feels nauseated, is vomiting, has diarrhea, and is coughing, hacking, and sneezing. All of these symptoms can spread a virus. Also, if a person is so sick that he or she cannot do their job, it is best to stay at home.
If a person feels well enough to go to work, he or she should try to prevent infecting others. They should avoid shaking hands with others, always use tissues to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and wash their hands or use an alcohol-based gel or wipe afterward.
Always consult your physician for more information.
(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)