H1N1 flu precautions still needed at work, home
Negative stain EM image of the swine influenza A/CA/4/09. Image
courtesy of C. S. Goldsmith and A. Balish, CDCM.
Although much of the initial fear regarding the H1N1, or swine, flu has subsided, you should continue to take precautions to keep your family and coworkers well.
H1N1 confirmation kits have been distributed to state laboratories, resulting in a surge in case confirmations during the past weeks.
As of Thursday, the U.S. has 5,764 confirmed and probable cases. There have been nine flu-related deaths in the U.S. In the majority, if not all these cases, there were preexisting issues that complicated the clinical course. The Centers for Disease Control has developed maps characterizing flu activity state by state. Illinois appears to have a large proportion of the confirmed cases, which are localized within the Chicago region.
Internationally, Japan also has seen an increase in cases. As of Thursday, cases had risen from 4 to 159, according to the World Health Organization.
The emerging pattern suggests that people under 20 are more likely to fall ill. This has led to some clustering of cases in schools. Explanations range from poorer hygiene in this group to some increased susceptibility.
What does it all mean? We have a novel virus in the worldwide environment. Many people, especially young people, are susceptible to this flu. It is transmitted the same way as seasonal flu. Those with symptoms similar to the flu should contact their physicians and not return to the workplace for at least seven days or until symptom free. If you need help in deciding what may have you feeling ill, the Medical Office can help.
We all need to stay diligent in terms of hand washing and cough etiquette, including using a tissue or the crease of your elbow to contain a cough. Employees who have family members with flu symptoms or a confirmed case should practice social distancing of at least three feet at home and at work. You should not travel while experiencing flu-like symptoms, both to limit the spread of an illness and to avoid being detained because foreign airports have enacted screening to help contain flu.
Although H1N1 has not turned out to be as menacing as feared, we cannot become complacent because, just as with the seasonal flu, it can keep one or more of us out of the "game," be that work, family activities or vacation.
For more information, please see Fermilab's Influenza Q&A Web page. A flu questions form also allows employees and users to submit questions related to the H1N1 influenza.
-- Dr. Brian Svazas