On April 26th, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wants to assure Americans that health officials are taking appropriate steps to minimize the impact of an outbreak of Swine Flu, by issuing a “declaration of emergency preparedness”. This follows reports of approximately twenty cases of this type of flu in 5 states: Texas, California, New York, Ohio and Kansas. As of today, Mexico has reported this same strain of flu has killed eighty-six people and sickened approximately 1,400 people, since April 13.
Public Health experts are puzzled by the differences experienced in the two countries. In Mexico, several of the victims were between 20 and 40 years old and died of severe pneumonia from this flu-like illness. It is unusual to be this acute to healthy young adults. In the U.S., patients ranged from ages 9 to over 50, and thus far, the cases have been mild. Canada has reported today four confirmed cases of the virus, said to be mild cases. However, it would seem that throughout the countries involved, persons who have traveled to Mexico are thought to be ones that have carried the virus to their homes.
Swine flu is a respiratory illness in pigs that is caused by a virus; however, it rarely kills very many of them. Thought to be only affecting those people who work on farms and have direct contact with pigs, this outbreak is different. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this is a mix of human virus, bird virus from North America and pig viruses from North America, Europe, and Asia. The Mexican virus samples match the U.S. virus samples.
It is also the opinion of the CDC that the seasonal flu shot in the United States this year won’t likely protect against the latest swine flu virus. Ironically, there’s a vaccine for pigs, but not humans. Twelve million doses of Tamiflu will be moved from U.S. government stockpiles to states that can receive their shares as needed. World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said the outbreak of the never-before-seen virus has “pandemic potential”, but it is still too early to tell if it would become a pandemic – an epidemic that spreads in humans around the world.
Symptoms of this virus are almost the same as any other type of flu: fever, cough, fatigue, lack of appetite, and some experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. Routine precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases should be taken: washing hands often, covering nose and mouth when coughing/sneezing, avoiding close contact with sick people. If you are sick, stay at home and limit contact with others.
Respirators and Face masks have been issued to citizens in Mexico City, in hopes of decreasing the spread of this virus. Many church services and places of public entertainment have been closed, as well. By taking immediate action, officials are hoping to catch this disease before it reaches pandemic proportions
Source: Associated Press