Tag Archives: Pandemic


We will go ahead and be straightforward and recommend that you get your flu shot if you haven’t already, even though the flu season has not been as bad so far!  Although it is the normal time of year for flu, confirmed cases doubled just this month, even though in most states the influenza activity remains regional rather than widespread.  California and Colorado are the only states that report widespread flu activity so far.  Experts are unable to explain why the season has been fairly mild, but it is beginning to circulate, and situations can change at any time.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that this year’s season had the latest official start since 1987-88. 

Shots are still available at public health centers.  The vaccination usually takes about two weeks to become effective.  Some factors that may figure in on why the flu has been kept under control are milder weather, and the fact that more persons took got their immunizations last year.  Ones who are more susceptible to catch influenza are children under 6 months, older patients, and those who have underlying chronic illnesses.  Physicians also state that flu is unpredictable, and there’s many things about the flu that are puzzling to them, as well. 

Many persons confuse symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and other stomach or intestinal problems to be influenza.  Seasonal flu normally is a respiratory disease, and not one of the stomach or intestines.  Most persons are contagious from one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms disappear.  Young children and those who have weakened immune systems may be contagious longer.  The illness lasts usually one to two weeks.  Please stay at home if you are ill, until you are sure you are no longer contagious.  Germs are spread through coughs, sneezes, and droplets in the air, and also any germs on surfaces that persons may touch.  That is why “washing your hands” is preached so often!  Keep some hand sanitizer in your car or purse, so you can clean your hands every time you return to your car from shopping or running errands.

Hundreds of thousands of people each year are hospitalized with influenza.  Between 3,000 and 40,000 people die during any influenza season, depending on the strain that’s circulating, according to Jeffrey Duchin, M.D.  He is chief of the Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Immunization Section at Seattle & King County Public Health.  Dr. Duchin says “This is a serious health problem for both adults and children, yet  it’s preventable.  There’s a way to avoid unnecessary doctor’s visits, to avoid unnecessary antibiotics, and to avoid hospitalization – through vaccination.”  Complications from influenza include bacterial pneumonia, ear/sinus infections, and dehydration, especially for persons with chronic health problems. 

As we know from the past, influenza strains are worldwide – no country is immune from it.  The H1N1 pandemic of 2009 taught  much about the importance of vaccines and staying out of the public when we are sick.  The H1N1 virus was a very deadly strain, causing  a global disease outbreak.  Let’s hope this time of the year brings the lowest figures ever regarding influenza.  Each person can help prevent it through innoculation, and staying home when ill in order not to expose others to illnesses we may have.










The first global pandemic that had occurred in 40 years hit worldwide last year!  A nasty virus called “H1N1 Influenza” spread throughout the globe.  Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.  It can be mild or severe, and can cause death in older persons, youngsters, and those who have certain underlying health conditions.  The H1N1 virus did not seem to affect older citizens as much as young adults, some of them in good health. 

Signs of influenza are body aches, chills, dry cough, fever, headache, and stuffy nose.  “Stomach flu” is not influenza.  There are certain antiviral medications that your healthcare provider may wish to prescribe for you.  Prevention is the key: annual flu vaccine.  Scientists make up a different vaccine each year because strains of influenza vary from year to year.  Experts are predicting we will see more of the H1N1 bug, as well as other viruses.  The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 strain and two other influenza viruses.  If you take the shot, and still get the flu, the severity of it should be reduced. 

Symptoms of the common cold, which strikes more than one billion victims per year in the United States, are scratchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing.  Bed rest, fluids, gargling with warm salt water, using lozenges and throat sprays are common treatments for colds.  Colds are usually milder than flu and most often do not result in serious health problems.  Some over-the- counter medications might help.  Antibiotics will not kill viruses or prevent bacterial infections.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not be given aspirin when they have a viral illness such as a cold.  Contact your pediatrician for best advice. 

When it comes to the common cold or influenza, here are some ways to help you  prevent and/or cope with either one of them: 

  • Avoid touching shared telephones, computers, stairway rails, doorknobs, money, and after doing so, wash hands properly!
  • Use alcohol-based disinfecting products for your hands.
  • Wash hands frequently, and teach your children to do so as well.
  • Try not to get too close to someone who is sneezing, coughing.
  • Stay away from others if you are sneezing or coughing.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough, sneeze or cough into your elbow, not hands.
  • While you are ill, stay home, DO NOT PASS GO, and get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.  Don’t take your germs to work or school, get well first!

Other respiratory viruses that curculate during flu season are non-flu viruses that include rhinovirus – one source of the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children and persons age sixty-five and older.

If you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, think seriously about getting one.  Let’s try to stay ahead of the “bugs” this year!

Sources: Centers for Disease Control

Nat’l Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


We hate to even bring up the subject, but following the H1N1 Pandemic the world experienced, it is important that we plan for, yet hope that there won’t be another one.  No one knows when an outbreak will occur, or the specific characteristics of a future pandemic virus, which are unpredictable.  Also unknown are what age groups will be affected, nor how dangerous it will be. 

Pandemics occur when a new virus spreads easily from person to person throughout the world.  Knowing what to do in our daily lives, work, and activities can be helpful. 

I had the misfortune while on an Alaskan cruise to catch some kind of “bug”, which required a visit to the doctor, two shots, several medications and about three weeks to get over.  Other friends who traveled to various places came home sick, as well.  Following a trip to China, two of our family members came home so ill they had to be hospitalized.  We know that most persons who travel come home feeling perfectly fine, but there are too many ways to come in contact with germs that can make us very ill.  Even though you wash your hands thoroughly, you still have to touch rails, elevator buttons, door- knobs and other items that hundreds of people are in contact with, as well.  (I have decided that the next trip I go on, I will wear gloves.  It may look silly, but I know I won’t be touching something loaded with germs!)  Anyone riding on mass transportation would be wise to carry sanitary wipes along. 

When we were dealing with the H1N1 virus, experts advised hand washing, covering one’s mouth when coughing or sneezing, using a tissue only once, staying home if you feel sick, and getting the vaccine.  Workplaces should provide hand sanitizers, tissues, plastic cups rather than dishes and cups that may not be washed thoroughly.  They should also remove magazines from waiting rooms and break rooms, when illness breaks out.  Workstations should be cleaned frequently, to keep employees healthy.  This is good advice to follow even when there’s no outbreak of a virus.  If there is a “bug” moving around, avoid travel, meetings, and workshops, if at all possible.  Also stay away from crowded places.   If there is a vaccine available, by all means, get it.  Many times it is recommended to get the flu vaccine; even if the new virus is a different strain, it is hoped that this will allow the symptoms to be less serious.

As we said, we hope there will never be another pandemic, and if we take better precautions and try to keep ourselves healthy, hopefully it won’t happen again.  But in a world full of more and more people, something is bound to occur sooner or later.  If countries will share the information worldwide as soon as they suspect a virus is beginning to spread, other countries will be better prepared to protect their citizens.  A pandemic impacts countries’ economies, industries, schools, hospitals, and governments, in other words, everyone.  Stay healthy.

SWINE FLU UPDATE – April 29, 2009

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Spain, Britain and Germany are reporting cases of Swine Flu.  Sadly, the United States reported its first death as a result of the illness, a 23-month old toddler from Mexico City.  She had traveled from Mexico to Brownsville, Texas, became ill, and died Monday night in a Houston hospital.  Doctors theorize that Mexico has had more deaths from this type of flu because it has been circulating among its citizens longer.

We must realize that deaths from influenza are not uncommon.  In the United States alone, 36,000 persons die per year from flu-related illnesses.  The concern regarding this new strain, which combines pig, bird, and human viruses is that persons may have limited immunity to it.

Medical and scientific teams are working steadfastly to develop a new vaccine, but it is going to take time to produce initial shots for human safety testing.

At this time, things are very unpredictable.  The last thing we need to do is panic.  The media constantly reports numbers of cases worldwide; however, many of those are suspected cases, and not confirmed ones.  Testing must be done at certain laboratories to actually confirm the type of flu the person has.

So, use common sense.  The advice given by professionals is to wash hands frequently; stay out of crowds as much as possible.  Cover your face when you cough or sneeze, and if you feel you are getting flu-like symptoms, see your physician.  If you become sick, stay at home.  We all must do our part to curb the threat of a potentially serious health problem.


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