Continue practicing high standards of hygiene
The Preventive Health Department (PHD) is appealing to the community to continue to practice cough etiquettes and good hygiene at all times. This appeal is being made after a call was made by the World Health Organization (WHO) for nations in the Northern Hemisphere to prepare for a second wave of pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) virus spread.
Countries should prepare for an increasing number of cases. To date St. Maarten has registered cumulatively 23 confirmed H1N1 cases.
Pandemic H1N1 is now the dominant virus strain according to the WHO. Evidence from multiple outbreak sites demonstrates that the H1N1 pandemic virus has rapidly established itself and is now the dominant influenza strain in most parts of the world.
The pandemic will persist in the coming months as the virus continues to move through susceptible populations. Studies have detected no signs that the virus has mutated to a more virulent or lethal form. The overwhelming majority of patients continue to experience mild illness. Although the virus can cause very severe and fatal illness, also in young and healthy people, the number of such cases remains small.
Large numbers of people in all countries remain susceptible to infection. The PHD is therefore reminding residents that high standards of personal hygiene entail covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and washing your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after contact with respiratory secretions (e.g., after sneezing and coughing).
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 contact with sick people.
The symptoms of Pandemic Influenza A (H1N1) flu virus 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 the virus.
Persons who have flu-like-illness should remain at home and contact their family physician via telephone who will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.
Persons who have traveled in the preceding seven days to affected countries should seek immediate medical attention once they develop influenza-like symptoms. You are advised to stay at home and contact your family physician. This will help minimize the risk of infecting those around them, especially people who are at a higher risk of severe illness and complications of influenza.
Members of the public are advised to exercise caution over travel to affected areas. In the event that travel is unavoidable, the public is advised to take precautionary measures such as avoiding crowded areas and maintaining high standards of personal hygiene at all times. Another preventive measure is eating healthy foods, getting a lot of exercise and maintaining an eight hour sleep schedule.
The PHD would also like to inform the populace that the seasonal flu vaccine is only for the regular flu and not pandemic H1N1 flu virus. It is advisable to consult your family physician concerning the seasonal flu vaccine.
Persons seeking additional information should contact PHD at telephone numbers: 542-3003 or 542-3553 or visit the following websites: www.cdc.gov/swineflu or www.who.int. for more information on Pandemic Influenza A(H1N1) virus also referred to as swine flu.