Health Emergency declared in U.S. for Swine Flu
Declaration allows agencies to do preparedness mobilization. No deaths in the U.S.
by Pinedale Online!
April 26, 2009
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced today (Sunday, April 26, 2009) the Obama administration has declared a public health emergency in the United States for swine flu.
The Health Emergency declaration allows the government to free up federal, state and local agencies and resources for prevention and mitigation. The disease is believed to be responsible for more than 80 deaths in Mexico, and many more people there becoming ill. To date there have been no deaths in the United States due to the outbreak.
Secretary Napolitano said the declaration of emergency would be better called a "declaration of emergency preparedness, because that's really what it is in this context." She said it is similar to what DHS does to prepare when a hurricane may be approaching "we will go ahead and issue an emergency declaration that allows us to preposition — frees up money, resources to get pre-positioned, to get ready. A hurricane may not actually hit a particular landfall, but it allows you to undertake a number of preparatory steps. And really that's what we're doing right now, the government. We're leaning forward, we're preparing in an environment where we really don't know ultimately what the size or seriousness of this outbreak is going to be."
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Swine flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. Swine influenza viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus was first isolated from a pig in 1930.
Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans. However, sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred. Most commonly, these cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs (e.g. children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry). In addition, there have been documented cases of one person spreading swine flu to others. For example, an outbreak of apparent swine flu infection in pigs in Wisconsin in 1988 resulted in multiple human infections, and, although no community outbreak resulted, there was antibody evidence of virus transmission from the patient to health care workers who had close contact with the patient.
The swing flu outbreak is believed to be responsible for 81 deaths in Mexico. Officials in Mexico suspect more than 1,300 Mexicans have been sickened by the virus. The Mexican government announced it was shutting down schools in the capital and surrounding areas until May 6.
As of today, there are 20 cases of swine flu in the United States, in five affected states. There are eight cases confirmed in New York City, one case confirmed in Ohio, two in Kansas, two in Texas, and seven in California. All of the individuals in this country who have been identified as cases have recovered.
With reports of more confirmed and possible cases from Mexico and the United States, the World Health Organization declared the virus "a public health emergency of international concern" with "pandemic potential."
Mexico City's mayor has canceled all public events for 10 days, and the country's health department has been given the power to isolate patients and inspect travelers.
U.S. health officials say swine flu symptoms resemble the regular human seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses. There is no vaccine to protect humans from swine flu.
The flu virus can be directly transmitted from pigs to people and from people to pigs. Human infection with flu viruses from pigs are most likely to occur when people are in close proximity to infected pigs, such as in pig barns and livestock exhibits housing pigs at fairs. Human-to-human transmission of swine flu can also occur. This is thought to occur in the same way as seasonal flu occurs in people, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
Signs of swine flu in pigs can include sudden onset of fever, depression, coughing (barking), discharge from the nose or eyes, sneezing, breathing difficulties, eye redness or inflammation, and going off feed. Vaccines are available to be given to pigs to prevent swine influenza.
Swine influenza viruses are not transmitted by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork and pork products is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.
The government’s top priority right now is to ensure close communication and active medical surveillance efforts to ensure rapid identification and broad notification of any new cases that may occur in the U.S., as well as in Mexico.
The Homeland Security Council has convened an interagency body of senior federal experts to facilitate coordination among the federal departments and agencies that have a role in recognizing, responding to, and communicating with domestic and international partners regarding health incidents that have the potential for significant impact to the nation's well-being. The White House is updated daily on this health emergency.
Dr. Richard Besser, Acting Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, had this advice:
1. The public is urged to practice good hygienic practices, such as hand-washing on a regular basis.
2. People who feel sick are encouraged to stay home. If you're ill, you shouldn't get on an airplane or another public transport to travel.
3. If your children are sick, have a fever and flu-like illness, they shouldn't go to school.
4. People are urged to follow other practices that are common sense when dealing with an outbreak of flu every year.
DHS and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) will hold daily briefings for a while to communicate to the public what is happening.
See the CDC website for more information: Swine flu. Additional information can be found at the links below.