RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—The number of confirmed swine flu cases in the United States doubled from Sunday to Monday, raising the official count to 40, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Although more than 100 deaths in Mexico have been associated with the flu strain, there have been no reported deaths in the United States to date, and only one person had to be briefly hospitalized.
THE DETAILS: On Monday health officials confirmed that the 20 new swine flu cases in this country were students from the same New York private school, where 8 others cases had been previously identified. The students had recently visited Mexico on a school trip. Also on Monday, President Barack Obama said that Sunday’s declaration of a public health emergency by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was a "cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert," but should not serve as a "cause for alarm." The move directs more resources towards detecting and tracking the illness, and allows the Department of Homeland Security to free up millions of doses of anti-viral drugs for treatment, if needed.
WHAT IT MEANS: While news coverage about infections and flu epidemics may be disturbing, health experts echo the President’s calls for calm. So far this is a very limited outbreak, says Mary Klotman, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City. “We’ve dealt with influenza for a long time, and will continue to deal with it in the future,” she says. “On an individual level, I don’t think there’s reason to panic, but you should use common sense.”
Use the basic rules of flu etiquette to help protect yourself while the CDC continues to investigate the situation:
• Know when to use a sick day. If you’re not feeling well, stay home so you don’t spread a possible viral infection. Swine flu symptoms are the same as the regular flu—fever, lethargy, sore throat, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. If you experience flu-like symptoms, contact your doctor. Initial studies show that antiviral medications do work against the swine flu, says Dr. Klotman. But in most of the current U.S. cases, patients recovered without the drugs.
• Scrub-a-dub-dub those hands. A standard practice for flu prevention pertains to the swine flu, too: Wash your hands often with warm, soapy water. You may not even realize you’re doing it, but touching the so-called T-zone—your mouth, eyes, and nose—can give the virus a chance to enter your body. So avoid touching your face, but keep your hands clean in case you accidentally (perhaps inevitably) touch it anyway.
Published on: April 28, 2009