Residents advised to maintain high standards of hygiene; Multi-disciplinary team ….

… be established to coordinate response

Based on an internal meeting that took place on Monday between the Preventive Health Department and the Hygiene & Veterinary Department, residents are being advised to maintain high standards of hygiene in order to avoid getting the flu virus.

The World Health Organization (WHO) Emergency Committee announced on Monday that based on available data on confirmed outbreaks of a deadly new strain of the flu virus – swine influenza A(H1N1) which has not been previously detected in pigs or humans; in Mexico, the United States, Canada and reports of possible spread to additional countries, the WHO has raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from the current phase 3 to phase 4.

Level 4 means the virus is showing a sustained ability to pass from human to human, and is able to cause community-level outbreaks. A pandemic flu is a type of influenza that occurs every few decades and which spreads rapidly to affect most countries and regions around the world.

Due to the aforementioned, the Island Government will be mobilizing an Influenza Pandemic Coordination Response Team (IPCRT). A meeting will take place on Tuesday morning which will include a number of government departments who will assess and review the local situation as well as current global developments, WHO recommendations and prepare additional response measures that may be required during the coming weeks.


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The change to a higher phase of pandemic alert by the WHO indicates that the likelihood of a pandemic has increased, but not that a pandemic is inevitable.

The WHO is of the opinion that containment of the outbreak is not feasible and the current focus on countries should be on mitigation measures.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease found in pigs. Human cases usually occur in those who have contact with pigs. Human-to-human transmission is rare and such cases are closely monitored.

However, with this new strain, human-to-human transmission is taking place rapidly.

The majority of cases in Mexico where the outbreak first occurred have taken a toll on otherwise healthy young adults. Influenza normally affects the very young and the very old, but these age groups have not been heavily affected in Mexico.

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu.

Most cases of swine flu so far reported around the world appear to be mild, but in Mexico close to 150 people have died.

On Monday Sector Public Health, Social Development & Labour based on a recommendation by the WHO to all countries to be on alert and intensify surveillance for unusual outbreaks of influenza-like illness and severe pneumonia, was also implemented here.

The Preventive Health Department called family physicians on Monday to ascertain if there is an increase in reported influenza-like illness, but there was no indication at this point in time and there are no cases of swine flu on the island.

SLS Lab was contacted to ensure that they have diagnostic testing equipment while contact has been made with the National Epidemiologist on the French side of the island.

"There is no cause for alarm. The Island Government health authorities continue to monitor the rapidly developing situation in the Americas and other parts of the world and will keep the community informed of what precautionary measures are being taken here in the interests of public health," Commissioner of Public Health Affairs Maria Buncamper-Molanus told the Government Information Service (GIS) on Monday.

Additional information will be released to the community with respect to preparedness and response activities by the Island Government and its public health directorate.

Follow These Recommendations:

Transmission: How does swine flu spread?
Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening 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.

How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 7 or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

How long can viruses live outside the body?
We know that some viruses and bacteria can live 2 hours or longer on surfaces like cafeteria tables, doorknobs, and desks. Frequent hand washing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.

Prevention: What should I do to keep from getting the flu?
First and most important: wash your hands.

– Try to stay in good general health.

– Get plenty of sleep,

– Be physically active,

– Manage your stress,

– Drink plenty of fluids, and

– Eat nutritious food.

Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick (do not sneeze or cough in another’s face).

What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can be spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface like a desk and then touches their own eyes, mouth or nose before washing their hands.

What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you get sick with influenza, it is recommended that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.

What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water. Or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. It is recommended that when you wash your hands — with soap and warm water — that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds.

When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn’t need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.

What should I do if I get sick?
If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenza-like symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to contact their health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.

If you are sick, consult your physician and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to limit the spread of your illness to others.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.

Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.