World on alert over swine flu

Monday, April 27th, 2009

Up to last week, the outbreak of the swine flu was confined to Mexico, but there is now some alarm in the United States over registered cases in several states in US. There have been at least 2000 registered cases in several states in Mexico including El Distrito Federal in the State of Mexico.
Even though there has been no official word from the Government of Belize, since Saturday April 25th, the Border Management Agency at the northern border has made the first step in disbursing surgical masks for all employees at the Santa Elena Border in Corozal. In addition, a health post has been temporarily set up at the Corozal Free Zone where authorities are screening visitors and encouraging the use of surgical masks.

Workers at the Corozal Free Zone using surgical mask

What is Swine Influenza? 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 (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.
Can humans catch swine flu? YES! 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. Beside the one case in the US 1n 1988, swine flu was first suspected in February of 2009 with 12 cases mostly in Mexico.

Mexican swarm the health facilities in Mexico for possible symptoms

What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans? The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of 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.
Can people catch swine flu from eating pork? No. 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 are safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.
What medications are available to treat swine flu infections in humans? There are four different antiviral drugs that are licensed for use in the US for the treatment of influenza: amantadine, rimantadine, oseltamivir and zanamivir. While most swine influenza viruses have been susceptible to all four drugs, the most recent swine influenza viruses isolated from humans are resistant to amantadine and rimantadine. At this time, CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with swine influenza viruses.
Quick developments
– Deaths: 149 suspected, all in Mexico.
– Sickened: Nearly 2,000 in Mexico, suspected or confirmed; 40 confirmed in U.S.; 13 suspected in New Zealand; 6 confirmed in Canada; 7 suspected in Spain; 1 suspected in France; 1 suspected in Israel.
– Locations in Mexico: 17 states, including Mexico City, Mexico State, Veracruz, Oaxaca, Baja California and San Luis Potosi. Some, including Oaxaca, Mexico City and Baja California, have tourist areas, but authorities have not said where in these states the outbreaks occurred.
– Locations in U.S.: California, Kansas, New York, Ohio and Texas.
– In the US, roughly 12 million doses of Tamiflu are being moved from federal stockpile for delivery to states. Travelers at the borders are being asked about travel to flu-stricken areas.
Today, Monday April 27th, the Government of the Republic of Mexico announced the closure of all schools throughout the country until a further announcement which is due on May 6th. Surgical masks are being given away on the subway system, airports, bus terminals, public events canceled, schools and public venues closed and church services postponed.
In Guatemala, the authorities yesterday listed the country as being under alert and are distributing surgical masked. In Jamaica, the government has place the country on alert over the possible outbreak of swine flu.
The World Health Organization has declared the swine flu outbreak in North America a “public health emergency of international concern.”
The decision means countries around the world will be asked to step up reporting and surveillance of the disease. WHO fears the outbreak could spread to other countries and is calling for a coordinated response to contain it.

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