Swine Flu: Not a disaster yet but keep an eye on it
What most people want to know now is if this is all being hyped. I must say that, while it is not a "disaster" at this point, there is clearly the potential for this to turn into a pandemic. Many people question this as the rate of illness and death is far behind the normal flu in terms of morbidity and mortality. But, pandemics are different than the normal seasonal influenza epidemics that happen annually. While these cause an average of 36,000 deaths in the US, pandemic influenza refers to a worldwide epidemic due to a new strain of influenza virus to which there is no immunity. If this turns into a pandemic, the new virus will be spreading rapidly from person to person around the globe and may cause high levels of disease and death around the world. The numbers go into the hundreds of millions...
Today, we still have a situation which is evolving rapidly. There are 64 confirmed cases in the US, with no deaths. Mexico has reported only 26 confirmed human cases of infection including seven deaths. Many other countries now have suspected cases but are reporting mild symptoms. This is all good news. Hopefully this does not amount to much. However, you might want to take a hint from my field: we hope for the best but prepare for the worst.
Currently, there is no restriction recommended for regular activities or travel. It is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms to seek medical attention.
What can you do?
The single best way to prevent the flu is to use good "health habits" like covering your mouth when you cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent the flu.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. Stay at least six feet away from anyone who is feeling ill.
Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have tissue, use your sleeve, not your hands. Washing your hands often will also help protect you from germs.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.