Thursday, April 30, 2009

Health officials in Dominica prepare for possible swine flu outbreak

By Newsdesk

Health authorities in Dominica say that they are taking all necessary precautions to respond to any possible outbreak of the swine flu pandemic in Dominica.

Authorities plan to increase their screening of passengers arriving in the country’s air and seaports. Thousands of visitors are expected in Dominica over the next few days at the height of the cruise ship season.
swine flu
Pilots on internation flights take precautions against the swine flu virus.

In addition, over a thousand medical school students will be returning to Portsmouth from Spring Break in the United States and other countries possibly affected by the outbreak. Health authorities however have rejected calls by some in the country to either close down Ross University or to quarantine the students.

Residents were asked to take all necessary precautions such a s washing their hands frequently and avoiding persons coughing or sneezing. Medical personal were also urged to be on the look out for any signs of the virus.So far, there are no reported cases on Dominica and the officials continue to monitor the situation.

Chief Medical Officer Erwin Ferreira also says that the hospital services in Dominica is ready to deal with whichever contingency arises.
Below are some answers to questions that you may be asking about the swine flu virus.

1. When was swine flu first discovered?
Swine flu was first identified in 1930 when researchers isolated the virus in a pig. In 1976, more than 500 soldiers at Fort Dix, New Jersey, got swine flu, but only one died. It was claimed that many more persons died from the hastily arranged inoculations to fight off the virus. Since 1976 and before this outbreak there has been about 40 cases of swine flu reported.

2. Did any of the people with the virus get it from pigs or people?

So far doctors have been unable to make the link between pigs and people. Everyone testing positive so far have had contact with another human.

3. Is the 2009 outbreak different from past episodes?

The 2009 flu outbreak in humans that is widely known as "swine flu" technically is not swine flu. It is due to a new strain of influenza A virus subtype H1N1 that derives from one strain of human influenza, one strain of avian influenza, and two separate strains of swine influenza. The origins of this new strain are unknown, and the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) reports that this strain has not been isolated in swine. It passes with apparent ease from human to human, an ability attributed to an as-yet unidentified mutation. The strain in most cases causes only mild symptoms and the infected person makes a full recovery without requiring medical attention and without the use of antiviral medicines.

4. Swine flu is transmitted from animals to humans. Does that happen a lot?

Yes. More than 200 "zoonotic diseases" are transmitted from animals to humans, including illnesses caused by bacteria, viruses and parasites. Rabies and variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (better known as "mad cow disease") are two well-known examples.

5. Should there be panic?

Doctors say that although the virus is spreading, it is not spreading that quickly. They however warn that people should pay attention. They should be alert, keep up with the information coming out daily, and take control by being attentive to their hygiene. Wash your hands very, very frequently and avoid people who are coughing and sneezing. Also, boost up your immune system as much as possible. Take some of the same steps that you would take to ward off the common flu.

6. How close do you have to be to a sick person to get swine flu?

You can acquire this infection if you're within the 'breathing zone' of a sick person, which is about three to six feet," according to doctors. And it usually mean being this close to someone in a confined space. It cannot be contacted by fleeting contact such as walking past an infected person in the street. You need sustained contact. If you think you might have sustained contact with someone who's ill, read this guidance from the CDC's Web site.

7. What about at work, on the bus, at church, in a movie theater. Could I get swine flu from them?

Yes. If you're standing next to someone on a bus, or sitting next to someone or in front of someone in a theater, you could acquire the infection in that fashion. That's why people with the symptoms of any kind of flu -- fever, diarrhea, body aches, vomiting, etc. -- are urged to stay home and away from groups of people.

8. Is there a vaccine right now?

No. a swine flu vaccine was given to 45 million people in 1976, but this has been discontinued and researchers are working on one currently.
In any event, the 1976 vaccine would not have been helpful since that was a completely different virus than the virus we are dealing with right now.

9. Many of the dead in Mexico have been young and healthy. Why?

This sometimes happens with new viruses. One theory is that young people, who have strong immune systems, mount a particularly vigorous response to new viruses. But there's a potential side effect to the response: the body releases dangerous levels of signaling proteins, called cytokines, which can damage the lungs. Scientists believe these "cytokine storms" can be fatal. It however remains a mystery.

10. Could this new swine flu virus have been manufactured by bioterrorists or simply be man made?

While this is possible, scientists and experts are saying no, believing that if it was bioterrorism it would have been far more deadly.

11. Will my regular flu shot help protect me against swine flu?

"The United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says it is unlikely.

12. How long is the incubation period of the virus i.e. before you begin showing symptoms after infection?

The incubation period of the swine flu is one to seven days.

13. Can the swine flu virus remain on objects and surfaces?

While this is possible, there is only a small chance of getting the virus if you touch a surface such as a door knob that an infected person touched. Virtually all influenza is transmitted from sneezing and coughing. And viruses don't survive in large numbers on surfaces.

14. What should I do if I develop symptoms of swine flu?
Remember that symptoms of the flu are high fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills, and fatigue. If you experience this, call your doctor, don't just drive on over, and follow the instructions of your doctor.

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Let's hope that DA is spared because I don't know that our medical services can sufficiently deal with a widespread outbreak.
This is a serious health challenge and I am pleased to know that the Dominica authorities are taking proactive steps to deal with the issue. Good for DA!!
Editor thank you for posting this very useful information.

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