The CDC based in Atlanta Georgia has stated that the H1N1 virus is widespread in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. With the peak of the flu season not coming until February officials are worried.
Pandemic flu typically comes in several waves, and research suggests that each wave is more lethal than the preceding one and that the people infected at the start of each new wave experience far higher morbidity and mortality than those affected later in the wave.
The CDC figures relating to 2009-2010 make grim reading. The statistics show both the infection rates and mortality increasing during the second wave in 2010. Relating to the current outbreak they state:
From November through December 2013, CDC has received a number of reports of severe respiratory illness among young and middle-aged adults, many of whom were infected with influenza A (H1N1) pdm09 (pH1N1) virus.Multiple pH1N1-associated hospitalizations, including many requiring intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and some fatalities have been reported. The pH1N1 virus that emerged in 2009 caused more illness in children and young adults, compared to older adults, although severe illness was seen in all age groups. While it is not possible to predict which influenza viruses will predominate during the entire 2013-14 influenza season, pH1N1 has been the predominant circulating virus so far.For the 2013-14 season, if pH1N1 virus continues to circulate widely, illness that disproportionately affects young and middle-aged adults may occur.
Seasonal influenza contributes to substantial morbidity and mortality each year in the United States. In the 2012-13 influenza season, CDC estimates that there were approximately 380,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations . Although influenza activity nationally is currently at low levels, some areas of the United States are already experiencing high activity, and influenza activity is expected to increase during the next few weeks. (source)
The World Health Organization has not yet made a statement on the current status of H1N1.
There is nothing you can do to make sure you don’t get the flu. Even social distancing only works if everyone in the family stays away from outsiders. There are a few things you can do to maximize your chances of staying germ free.
- Wear a light, closely woven scarf around your nose and mouth when out and about. If the virus doesn’t get into your airways you won’t get sick.
- Use your knuckles to push contaminated buttons such as those in elevators. Again, should you touch your nose or mouth with your fingers the virus will transfer from your fingers to your airways. Using your knuckles makes this far less likely.
- Open cubicle doors in public washrooms with a tissue between you and the handle/lock.
- Wash your hands when returning home from trips to the shops etc.
- Wipe keyboards,TV remotes and mobile phones with an antibacterial wipe at least once a day.
- Wipe door handles used by visitors with an antibacterial wipe when the visitors have left.
- If visitors use the family bathroom, make sure toothbrushes/tubes of toothpaste and mouth wash are put away not left on the sink or vanity.
- Wash your hands or use sanitizer as soon as possible after handling paper money. Paper is a great medium for breeding germs, especially crinkled, old or damp paper such as dollar bills.
- If someone gets sick isolate them. Tucking a sick family member up on the sofa may be nice but it will massively increase the chances of the virus spreading.
IF ANY form of influenza, or any other infectious disease for that matter, gets to epidemic proportions in you location, avoid going into areas where there are large crowds of people. Cinemas, sporting events and even shopping malls practically guarantee you will come into someone who is contagious. Self-imposed limited social distancing is a very effective way of reducing the chances of infection.
Be it a localized epidemic or a worldwide pandemic you need to consider the comings and goings of your family. My husband travels both nationally and internationally in the course of his work. I monitor what’s happening in the areas he visits.
He wasn’t overly impressed during the SARS outbreak some years ago when I told him to stay in London for a few days before he came home, just to make sure he never came down with it. I felt awful for saying it, and enforcing it, but at the end of the day there was the baby to consider. Rather him be put out for a few days than our baby end up dead or parentless because he has brought home an infection from a foreign land.
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Contributed by Lizzie Bennett of Underground Medic.
Lizzie Bennett retired from her job as a senior operating department practitioner in the UK earlier this year. Her field was trauma and accident and emergency and she has served on major catastrophe teams around the UK. Lizzie publishes Underground Medic on the topic of preparedness.