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SWINE FLU PDF Print E-mail
Written by Basil Cambanis   
Saturday, 09 May 2009 02:49

 Swine Free

Health bulletin released by CAMAF medial aid fund

AIM OF THE BULLETIN

 

In response to the recent outbreak in many countries of Influenza A H1N1, known initially as Swine Influenza, the Executive Committee of the Board of CAMAF have decided to make essential information available to its members and their families on the potential pandemic and how they should avoid, prevent, and respond to possible infections. This brief bulletin is produced with the assistance of CAMAF's medical, nursing and pharmaceutical staff in an attempt to give a transparent, balanced, and evidence-based view of the situation.

While every attempt has been made to give accurate and balance information, you are encouraged to use your health care practitioners as your primary source of information, and this information should be viewed as supplementary to such advice.

To complement the brief information given in this document, CAMAF has also developed pages on its website with greater detail and specifically chosen links to many credible sites in South Africa and internationally, to keep you up-to-date on a daily basis when you may need more detailed information. Much of the information in the public media is incorrect and confusing. To go directly to the CAMAF Influenza webpage click HERE.

WHAT IS INFLUENZA A / H1N1 ("SWINE FLU")

Every year from about May to August, we in South Africa experience influenza epidemics caused by the same virus which infected communities in the Northern Hemisphere six months earlier. Earlier this year, a totally new influenza virus evolved in North America from a mixture of human, avian (bird), and swine influenza viruses. Initially it was called "swine flu', but its name has been changed - humans get it from other humans and not from pigs. Experts state that it does not appear at this stage to be more infectious than the usual human flu, but because it is new, it appears that nobody has immunity to the virus at this point, it could spread widely and infect many people. It is not known how severe this virus will be in the general population, but scientists are studying the medical histories of those who have been infected so far to get a better understanding. As of 06:00 on 8 May there were 2384 people infected in 24 countries. No cases have been confirmed in South Africa. For daily updates on the global status, click Here

DO WE HAVE A PANDEMIC YET ?

NO! The World Health Organisation (WHO) has 6 levels of Pandemic Awareness. They have declared the situation to be at Level 5, meaning the virus has been passed from one human to another and then from that person to another in at least 2 countries within a WHO Region. This means that a pandemic is imminent. At the moment there are localised epidemics. A pandemic is a global epidemic.

WHO IS BECOMING INFECTED ?

62% of those infected so far have been under 18 years of age. Death rates have been relatively low at this point. To date 42 deaths have occurred in Mexico which has a population of over 107 million people. "Normal" human flu kills people every year especially those with chronic diseases and the elderly. Two of the 642 infected people have died in the USA.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT INFECTION OF MYSELF AND OTHERS ?

It is a respiratory disease. The infection is passed from one person to another though droplets when someone sneezes or coughs. With coughing or sneezing droplets are spread within the area and also onto hands. There is no vaccine yet for the condition and the one available in South Africa is not specific for this virus. It may be available in about 6 month's time. So suggestions to prevent transmitting and catching the virus are:

  • Frequent hand-washing with soap and water or cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand cleaners especially after coughing or sneezing.
  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and disposing of the used tissues in a dustbin.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands – after touching doors, shaking hands of infected persons etc.
  • Avoid over-crowded areas, indoor sports events, community meetings etc.
  • Avoiding close contact with sick people and keep at least a 2 meters distance from people with respiratory symptoms
  • Stay at home from work or school and limit contact with others if you have an acute feverish respiratory illness - flu, cold, cough etc.
  • Phone your GP if you have flu-like symptoms before visiting the doctor. You don't want to infect others while you wait.
You can eat pork – there is no evidence of infection from a pig to a human. It may be useful to stock up on household, health and emergency supplies such as a thermometer, paracetamol, tissues, surgical masks, non-perishable foods, cool-drinks / water in case they are required after hours or on weekends if someone in the family were to get sick.

To watch a very informative short video from CDC click HERE and click "Watch"

HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE INFLUENZA A / H1 N1 INFECTION ?

The symptoms which may suggest infection by this virus include a fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills, or fatigue, but other viruses can also present like this. So confirmatory nasal and throat swabs must be done by your doctor. Some of the patients have also had diarrhoea or vomiting. Also, like seasonal flu severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus. In the elderly and those with underlying chronic medical conditions complications such as pneumonia and even death could occur, as they do with perennial 'normal' flu. So getting to a doctor early is important. This is especially true since the drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza must be taken within 2 days of onset of the symptoms in order to work.

WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I GET SICK ?

If you develop symptoms of 'flu' you should contact your GP, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your doctor may arrange for you to be tested for the new virus and put you on treatment. Your doctor may put you on Tamiflu or Relenza which will reduce the symptoms, duration and chance of complications. So the usual treatment with staying at home, bed rest while feverish, pain pills, plenty of fluid, and possibly antibiotics to prevent secondary infection may also be recommended by your doctor. Limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Remember too, to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze. The use of simple surgical masks by patients and those tending to them is highly recommended. They can be obtained from most larger pharmacies.

Sick patients should be nursed in a separate room away from others and the door kept closed. For more useful information on protecting others, cleaning linen, waste disposal and use of face masks go to Influenza webpage and click on "Caring for sick patients at home."

People with the flu can be infectious until all symptoms have disappeared. This may take up to 7 days. Children, especially younger children may be infectious for longer. DO NOT GIVE ASPIRIN CONTAINING DRUGS TO CHILDREN WITH THE FLU. This could cause Reye's syndrome, a serious condition in children.

DANGER SIGNS & SYMPTOMS

In seasonal flu certain people are at higher risk of serious flu-related complications. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than 5 years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with chronic medical conditions. If you or your family members develop any of the following warning signs, get emergency medical care.

In children these signs could include difficult breathing or fast breathing; bluish skin colour; not drinking enough fluids; drowsiness, not waking or not interacting; being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, fever with a rash, or flu-like symptoms that get better and then return with fever and worse cough.

In adults, urgent warning signs include difficult breathing, or shortness of breath; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; sudden dizziness, confusion, or severe or persistent vomiting.

GOING BACK TO WORK

Until such time you could be infectious. You should not do exercise for at least a week if possible. If you once more develop any of the above symptoms or chest pain, shortness of breath contact your doctor.

WHAT ABOUT TRAVEL - ESPECIALLY OVERSEAS ?

WHO is not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the Influenza A(H1N1) virus. Individuals who are ill should delay travel plans and returning travellers who fall ill should seek appropriate medical care. These recommendations are prudent measures which can limit the spread of many communicable diseases, including influenza. CAMAF recommend that you travel with some surgical masks in your hand luggage in case you sit near someone who is coughing or sneezing. Remember too to change the mask regularly and wash your hands after touching the used mask. Using alcohol-based hand gel is useful, but not in your hand luggage. For the latest status report on travel from WHO click here. For more detailed information and recommendations on travel at this time click here.

WHAT ABOUT MY CHILDREN AT SCHOOL ?

The Department of Education and the National Centre for Communicable Disease will keep schools informed about how they should respond. At this point the preventative suggestions above should apply to your children. The virus is not transmitted by food or water, so drinking fountains, and swimming pools (heated at this point) are not a source of infection. Children who are coughing or sneezing from an infection should be kept at home for at least 7 days, and at least 24 hours after symptoms have disappeared. Avoid unnecessary group gatherings, as one would in the usual seasonal flu outbreaks. Children should be informed about how to use tissues when they cough or sneeze and how to dispose of them. If your child gets ill, look out for the danger signs listed above.

WHAT IF I AM PREGNANT ?

We don’t know if this virus will cause pregnant women to have a greater chance of getting sick or have serious problems. We also do not know how this virus will affect the baby. We do know that pregnant women are more likely to get sick than others and have more serious problems with seasonal flu. These problems may include early labour or severe pneumonia. We don’t know if this virus will do the same, but it should be taken very seriously. So see your GP or obstetrician if you develop any symptoms.

There is no information yet on the possible effects of Tamiflu or Relenza on pregnant women and their foetuses, so it is felt that these drugs should normally be avoided in pregnancy, unless the risks of the disease outweighs the risks to the foetus. However up to now no harmful effects have been reported on pregnant women who have used the drugs.

WHAT IF I AM OVER 65 YEARS OLD OR HAVE A CHRONIC DISEASE ?

Apart from the recommendations above you should speak to your medical practitioner about special precautions you should follow. Also be aware of the danger signs and symptoms mentioned above. Make sure that apart from the specific treatment suggested by your doctor, that you drink sufficient fluids, wear masks, keep your limbs moving, and eat sufficient roughage in your diet, especially if you on codeine containing pain pills. Report any change in your usual health status to your doctor immediately. Monitor your blood glucose levels carefully if you are diabetic.

SHOULD I HAVE THE FLU INJECTION ?

At this point the present flu vaccine does not appear to have any effect on preventing the "swine flu". It is however recommended that you have a "shot" now if you have not done so - especially if you are over 65 and have a chronic disease. 

 

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