The United States Responds to Swine Flu Outbreak

April 28, 2009
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of April 27 at 1 p.m. EST, has confirmed 40 cases of swine flu in the United States. New York City has the most, with 28 confirmed cases, followed by California with seven cases, Texas and Kansas with two cases each and Ohio with one case.

CDC is working very closely with officials in states where human cases of swine influenza A (H1N1) have been identified, as well as with health officials in Mexico, Canada and the World Health Organization. This includes deploying staff domestically and internationally to provide guidance and technical support.

CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center to coordinate the agency's response to this emerging health threat and on April 26, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano declared a public health emergency in the United States. This will allow funds to be released to support the public health response.

CDC's goals during this public health emergency are to reduce transmission and illness severity, and provide information to assist health care providers, public health officials and the public in addressing the challenges posed by this newly identified influenza virus. To this end, CDC has issued a number of interim guidance documents in the past 24 hours.

In addition, CDC's Division of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) is releasing one-quarter of its antiviral drugs, personal protective equipment and respiratory protection devices to help states respond to the outbreak.

Laboratory testing has found the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir, so if the virus is caught early, as in the cases here in the United States, treatment can be effective in reducing symptoms and preventing secondary infections such as pneumonia.

The symptoms of swine flu in people are 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. Despite the name, 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 is safe. Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 160°F kills the swine flu virus as it does other bacteria and viruses.

The CDC is recommending these everyday actions people can take to stay healthy:

  • 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 hands cleaners also are effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

OSHA recommends employers:

  • Promote personal hygiene by providing tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap, hand sanitizer, disinfectants and disposable towels for employees to clean their work surfaces.
  • Develop policies to minimize contacts between employees and between employees and clients or customers.
  • Develop policies that encourage ill employees to stay at home.
  • Discontinue unessential travel to locations with high illness transmission rates.
  • Consider practices to minimize face-to-face contact between employees such as e-mail, Websites and teleconferences.
About the Author

Sandy Smith

Sandy Smith is the former content director of EHS Today, and is currently the EHSQ content & community lead at Intelex Technologies Inc. She has written about occupational safety and health and environmental issues since 1990.

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