Saturday, April 25, 2009

Current Swine Flu - Will It Be a Pandemic?

There is a swine influenza (flu) outbreak presumably originating from Mexico. The expert agencies such as the WHO (World Health Organization) and the CDC (Center for Disease Control) are still uncertain about many things with this virus. So far, it is known to be H1N1 and it is known to be spreading from person to person (which raises concern). Another raise for concern is that many of the infected are young healthy people. Although these are some alarming factors raising concerns among experts, only 3 people have died (out of 23 reported cases) in Mexico. There have been no deaths in the U.S. from this virus so far. Right now, this is not a pandemic but it is uncertain if it will become one. There are a lot of unknowns even among experts and they are keeping a close watch.

As a non-expert (I am not an epidemiologist or virologist), I was alarmed to find out that this virus is H1N1 (similar to the virus from the 1918 pandemic), it includes swine, avian, and human strains, it spreads from person to person, and it has infected an unusual group - the young and healthy. However, I feel better after hearing one expert say that it could very well turn out to be not too virulent. There have been other swine flu outbreaks and flu outbreaks within the last hundred years that did not become as serious as the 1918 pandemic, but nobody knows at this point how this outbreak would pan out.

We should take extra precautions while we wait and see. Precautions include:
• Wash hands with soap and water frequently (especially after coming in contact with public surfaces).
• Although I generally think that alcohol-based hand sanitizers, such as Purell, are over-used, it may be a good idea to use them now (with an uncertain strain of virus out there)
• Do not touch your eyes, nose, ears, mouth, or other cavities with your hands.
• Do not let others cough or sneeze on you. If you cough or sneeze, please cover your mouth with tissue and discard the tissue in the garbage immediately.
• Avoid public gatherings such as concerts, bike tours, and other gatherings of the masses.
• If you are sick, stay home and avoid contact with others.

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