FOCUS: Global pandemic
Focus Humanitarian Assistance, an AKDN affiliate, has issued a preparedness guide for a pandemic outbreak of swine flu. The guide answers basic questions and includes several useful links to the websites of international and national health institutions.
What is swine flu?
Swine influenza, or “swine flu”, is a contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. People do not normally get swine flu, but cases of human infection with swine influenza A (H1N1) viruses have been reported and confirmed internationally.
Is this swine flu virus contagious?
The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.
This virus is thought to be spreading in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food.
How can transmission of the flu be avoided?
To protect yourself and others, practice general preventive measures for influenza:
- Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell or who have fever and cough;
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly;
- Practice good health habits including adequate sleep, eating nutritious food, and keeping physically active;
- Clean hard surfaces (kitchen worktops, door handles) frequently using a normal cleaning product.
Do I need a face mask?
Although wearing a mask is unlikely to be effective in preventing the infection it may limit further spread of the virus.
What are the symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu are similar to those of ordinary flu, but may be more severe and cause serious complications. The typical symptoms are:
- sudden fever;
- sudden cough.
Other symptoms may include:
- aching muscles;
- limb or joint pain;
- diarrhoea or vomiting;
- sore throat;
- runny nose;
- loss of appetite.
If you have flu-like symptoms:
If you develop severe flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately, particularly if you have recently travelled to Mexico or another affected area.
If you are sick stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.
What precautions should I take if I am travelling?
People using public transport are being reminded to observe good hygiene. In regard to international travel, please refer to your local transport authority for guidance and recommendations.
What is a pandemic?
A pandemic is a global outbreak of disease. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new virus emerges for which there is little or no immunity in the human population. It begins by causing serious illness and then spreads from person-to-person.
What are the different phases of a pandemic?
Copyright: World Health Organization
The above World Health Organisation (WHO) diagram describes the different pandemic influenza phases. Phases 1 – 3 correlate with preparedness, including capacity development and response planning activities, while Phases 4 – 6 signal the need for response and mitigation efforts.
The WHO has now raised the international alert level to Phase 5 on a six point scale and is urging all countries to intensify preparedness. Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent. At this stage the time to finalise the organisation, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.
How can I prepare for a pandemic?
Confirm a network of ‘flu-friends’, such as friends and relatives, to help you if you fall ill. Keep all important emergency telephone numbers in a safe place.
Have a stock of food and other supplies available at home that will last for two weeks. Current recommendations for stockpiling measures are:
- 2-week supply of water per each family member;
- 2-week supply of non-perishable food for each family member;
- Adequate supply of on going medication;
- Soap / cleansing agents;
- Torches and batteries;
- Portable radio;
- Manual can opener;
- Bin bags;
- Sanitary items (toilet tissue, diapers, etc.)
Where can I go for more information and updates on infection?
Centres for Disease Control and Protection provides information about swine flu, the number of cases being reported in the US and key points on personal hygiene:
NHS has also created a video which stresses personal hygiene and how to prevent the spread of infection titled Catch It. Kill It. Bin It.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has statistics, information and assessments on European cases:
Sources: World Health Organisation (WHO), Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Health Service UK (NHS), European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).