Sunday, April 26, 2009

Advised in current outbreak

"How should I protect myself?"
As reports of swine flu continue to rise in the United States and around the world,
Health officials' advice is to follow common-sense precautions: Wash your hands, stay home if you're sick and listen to your local health authorities.

U.S. health officials stress the importance of frequent hand washing during outbreaks of illness.

"Very frequent hand-washing is something that we talk about time and time again and that is an effective way to reduce transmission of disease," Dr. Richard Besser, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday at a White House briefing.

"If you're sick, it's very important that people stay at home. If your children are sick, have a fever and flu-like illness, they shouldn't go to school. And if you're ill, you shouldn't get on an airplane or another public transport to travel. Those things are part of personal responsibility in trying to reduce the impact. "

"In areas with no disease yet, a lot of what we can do sounds simple and repetitive but helps," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, interim deputy director of the CDC's Science and Public Health Program. In addition to washing hands often, she recommends covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing and avoiding touching your eyes and nose in case the virus is on your hands.

By midday Sunday, there were 20 confirmed cases in the United States. All infected U.S. patients have recovered. No one has died.

Mexico, however, has been hard hit: 86 deaths had been deemed "likely linked" to a deadly new strain of the flu virus by health authorities there. Viral testing has confirmed 20 cases, said Dr. Jose A. Cordova Villalobos, Mexico's health secretary, and Mexican authorities are investigating at least 1,000 cases of illness.

Cases also have been reported in New Zealand and Canada.

The World Health Organization calls the situation a "public health emergency of international concern," and the United States on Sunday declared a "public health emergency," likened by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to preparations for a potential hurricane. No authorities are calling the outbreak a pandemic.