What are the symptoms?
Limited information is available at this stage. It appears that the early symptoms are similar to those observed in respect of seasonal flu: cough, fever, sore throat, headache, running nose general fatigue and muscle pain. Vomiting and diarrhoea have also been noticed. Severe cases have deteriorated quickly (within five days) to pneumonia-like illness (shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing).
Is swine flu a severe illness?
It appears that the virus is capable of causing a severe disease. However it is currently not known if those who get sick will suffer severely. Most cases in the United States have been mild to date. There have been no fatalities. In Mexico, there have been fatal cases, apparently in young adults who were healthy earlier. The proportion of severe cases appears to be much higher compared to regular seasonal flu. Why the disease appears to be more common in Mexico is unknown.
How swine flu spreads?
It most likely spreads from person to person through infectious respiratory droplets (droplets generated when a person coughs, sneezes or talks).
How can I prevent falling sick?
By adhering to good hygiene; avoid people who are obviously sick. Be sure to wash your hands frequently. Avoid touching your face and if you do, make sure your hands are clean.
What is the period of infection?
The period of infection in respect of this strain is not yet known. According to CDC (Centres for Disease Control, US), infected people should be considered potentially contagious:
Incubation period is the time that elapses between exposure to the virus and the appearance of symptoms. The incubation period for this strain is not yet known. With seasonal flu, people manifest symptoms within four days, approximately. However, in respect of this new strain of flu, the incubation period may be longer. CDC (US) is currently advising people to monitor their health for seven days after possible exposure.
Is there a vaccine?
There is no specific vaccine against swine flu as yet. Regular seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection. Nevertheless, those who have not taken a seasonal flu vaccine should consider doing so. As a general practice of good health, people should make sure that they are up-to-date in respect of all routine vaccinations. This includes pneumococcal vaccination for certain adults. This vaccine is usually recommended for all people over 65 years of age and younger people with serious long-term health problems (heart disease, diabetes, alcoholism, COPD, emphysema, asthma, cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS). The CDC information can help the doctor decide if vaccination is the right choice.
Should employees be vaccinated against seasonal flu?
All international travellers should be vaccinated annually for the flu, to reduce the risk of contracting seasonal influenza. However, it is not known whether the current seasonal flu vaccination will offer any protection against the H1N1 swine flu strain circulating in the US or the severe respiratory illness occurring in Mexico. As a general good health practice, people should make sure that all their routine vaccinations are up-to-date. This includes pneumococcal vaccination for certain adults (over 65 and those with a serious chronic illness or decreased immune function due to cancer, transplant, HIV/AIDS, etc.). The CDC can help employees work with their doctor to decide if vaccination is the right choice.
Can swine flu be treated with antiviral medications?
Preliminary information indicates that the virus is sensitive to the newer antiviral medications, viz., oseltamivir (Tami flu) and zanamivir (Relenza). It is resistant to the older medications, viz., amantadine and rimantidine.
Can I catch swine flu from eating pork or pork products?
Can I travel to Mexico or the US?
Check for the latest travel restriction information.
An employee is currently in Mexico. Should he/she return home?
Employees who are currently well can return home. They should closely monitor their health and watch for flu-like symptoms. If they manifest symptoms, they should seek medical attention. Employees who are currently ill should seek medical attention in Mexico before returning home. International SOS members should call the number on their membership cards for assistance.
An employee has recently returned from Mexico. Can he/she return to work?
Employees who are currently ill should not return to work until they receive medical attention. They should tell their medical caregiver that they have recently been to Mexico. People who are infected may be infectious for a day before they show symptoms (see below "What is the infectious period?"). The period between exposure and manifestation of symptoms is not yet known (see "What is the incubation period?"). To reduce the risk of infection spreading within the workplace, if ‘retun to work’ policies allow, it may be prudent to request people returning from affected areas to remain away from the workplace for at least 72 hours. Once the incubation and infectious periods are better understood, the 72-hour period may change. Employees should continue to watch for flu-like symptoms even after they return to work.
Should employees take antiviral medication (Tamiflu) with them when travelling to Mexico
This is an individual decision, which should be made in consultation with a health professional. Any time employees carry medication internationally they should keep the original prescription with them and carry the medication in its original box. Employees should consult a medical professional before using antiviral medication.
Hand washing technique
Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. It is best to wash your hands with soap and clean running water for 10-20 seconds. However, if soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand-rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast acting.
When washing hands with soap and water:
Always before touching your face, mouth, nose or eyes.
Control coughs and sneezes
Unprotected coughs and sneezes, when you have the flu (influenza) or a common cold, can infect others around you. Help stop the spread of the disease by following some of the following suggestions:
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