The World Health Organization (WHO) has upgraded the swine influenza outbreak to near pandemic status.
“Based on assessment of all available information, and following several expert consultations, I have decided to raise the current level of influenza pandemic alert from phase 4 to phase 5,” WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan told a briefing Wednesday.
WHO said the situation continues to evolve rapidly and as of 18:00 GMT, 29 April 2009, nine countries have officially reported 148 cases of swine influenza A/H1N1 infection.
“The United States Government has reported 91 laboratory confirmed human cases, with one death. Mexico has reported 26 confirmed human cases of infection including seven deaths,” the WHO said.
The following countries have reported laboratory confirmed cases with no deaths – Austria (1), Canada (13), Germany (3), Israel (2), New Zealand (3), Spain (4) and the United Kingdom (5).[audio:http://www.abengnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/29apr2009swine_influenza_dr_margaret_chan.mp3]
Following Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting Jamaica’s health minister Rudyard Spencer said the country was on high alert.
“The WHO has determined that the current situation constitutes a public health emergency of international concern under the International health regulations, 2005,” he said. “All countries have therefore been placed on high alert, including Jamaica.
In it’s interim guidance on infection prevention and control in providing care for confirmed or suspected A(H1N1) swine influenza patients, the WHO recommends limiting contact with the ill person as much as possible. “If close contact is unavoidable, use the best available protection against respiratory droplets and perform hand hygiene,” it warns professionals.
“Swine influenza, or “swine flu”, is a highly contagious acute respiratory disease of pigs, caused by one of several swine influenza A viruses. Morbidity tends to be high and mortality low (1-4%),” says WHO. “The virus is spread among pigs by aerosols, direct and indirect contact, and asymptomatic carrier pigs. Outbreaks in pigs occur year round, with an increased incidence in the autumn and winter in temperate zones. Many countries routinely vaccinate swine populations against swine influenza.
“Outbreaks and sporadic human infection with swine influenza have been occasionally reported. Generally clinical symptoms are similar to seasonal influenza but reported clinical presentation ranges broadly from asymptomatic infection to severe pneumonia resulting in death.
HTML clipboard”To protect yourself, practice general preventive measures for influenza:
- Avoid close contact with people who appear unwell and 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.
“If there is an ill person at home:
- Try to provide the ill person a separate section in the house. If this is not possible, keep the patient at least 1 meter in distance from others.
- Cover mouth and nose when caring for the ill person. Masks can be bought commercially or made using the readily available materials as long as they are disposed of or cleaned properly.
- Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly after each contact with the ill person.
- Try to improve the air flow in the area where the ill person stays. Use doors and windows to take advantage of breezes.
- Keep the environment clean with readily available household cleaning agents.
If you feel unwell, have high fever, cough and/or sore throat:
- Stay at home and keep away from work, school or crowds as much as possible.
- Rest and take plenty of fluids.
- Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when coughing and sneezing and dispose of the used tissues properly.
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently and thoroughly, especially after coughing or sneezing.
- Inform family and friends about your illness and seek help for household chores that require contact with other people such as shopping.
If you need medical attention:
- Contact your doctor or healthcare provider before travelling to see them and report your symptoms. Explain why you think you have swine influenza (for example, if you have recently travelled to a country where there is a swine influenza outbreak in humans). Follow the advice given to you for care.
- If it is not possible to contact your healthcare provider in advance, communicate your suspicion of having swine influenza immediately upon arrival at the healthcare facility.
- Take care to cover your nose and mouth during travel.