person blowing nose

What You Need to Know about Swine Flu

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s website, as of today there are now 279 laboratory confirmed cases of the N1H1 influenza virus in the United States. I’m sure at this point everyone has heard about swine flu and its spread through Mexico, the US and other countries around the world. I did a little research and found out that there are approximately 36,000 deaths in the US from the common flu each year. So far, there has been one death in the US from the swine flu. So why all the hub-bub? Is the swine flu really that big of a deal that we have to receive constant updates throughout the day via tv, the radio and the internet? So big that businesses and schools are shutting down out of fear of this disease spreading?

The tricky thing about swine flu is that it’s a new virus. We don’t have immunity to it. Immunity is what keeps us from getting sick constantly. Our bodies build up a defense system that fights off the thousands of microbes that we probably encounter every day. Unfortunately, we have no defense system in place for swine flu. Not only that, but there currently isn’t a vaccine for the swine flu either (although the CDC reports that the Federal Government and manufacturers are in the process of creating a vaccine; however it could be months before it is available). And on top of all that, viruses can mutate as they’re spread from person to person. This makes it extremely hard to treat.

So should we be worrying? Not necessarily. We need to be informed, aware and proactive in preventing the virus from infecting us.

So what can we do to decrease our chances of contracting this virus? Actually, it’s quite simple. So simple that many people are recklessly ignoring these important recommendations or assuming that the virus can’t be all that dangerous. Because swine flu is considered a respiratory disease, it is mainly spread through coughing and sneezing of infected people. Number one, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Yes, you probably learned to do that when you were 2, but the advice is still good. If possible, try to cough or sneeze into a tissue and throw the tissue away immediately. If there aren’t any tissues handy, try coughing or sneezing into your elbow instead. You want to avoid covering your hand with your mouth unless you’re able to wash your hands immediately.

That leads us to the second recommendation: wash your hands often! I can’t emphasize this point enough! Simply washing your hands could keep you from landing in the hospital! When you wash your hands with regular soap and water, the microbes that you picked up from your cell phone, keyboard, shopping cart, etc. become suspended and then are rinsed away with water. Or if you’re using antimicrobial soap, the microorganisms on your hands are chemically killed. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Simple hand-washing could keep you from contracting swine flu and many other illnesses. You also want to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth to keep germs from spreading.

Do you have swine flu? The symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of the common flu: fever, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. The only way to find out if you have swine flu is to go to the doctor and have a viral culture taken, or have a test called real-time RT-PCR. These tests are the only ways to confirm an infection.

If you do have swine flu, your doctor will prescribe you an anti-viral medication such as Tamiflu or Relenza. The CDC has deployed 25% of the supplies in the Strategic National Stockpile to all states in the continental US in order to help treat those who have been diagnosed. It’s important to stay home and keep away from public places such as work, school, public transportation, and any other public venues in which you could potentially spread the flu to other people.

Yesterday, Dr. Richard Besser of the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control said that he is “precautiously optimistic” about the virus. He is hopeful that the strain is not more serious than the common flu. Obviously, it’s still important that we remain cautious and stay informed. We are not off the hook yet when it comes to the swine flu.


This information is provided as a service to you by Compliance Consultants, Inc.

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