The following information was developed by the AFT national office. It is the most informative and straightforward information I have seen regarding the swine flu.
Keep in mind that much of the public focus on this virus is as a result of media hype. You have a higher risk of being in an automobile accident than you do of contracting this virus. That being said, some common sense precautions (like always wearing your seatbelt) should continue to be taken:
1) Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing;
2) Wash your hands frequently, avoid shaking hands with others when possible;
3) If you feel ill, stay home (that's why we have paid sick leave in our contracts).
I hope you find the following information useful. Feel free to send it on to family and friends.
The AFT is tracking news of a highly dynamic swine influenza type A (H1N1) outbreak in Mexico, the U.S. and now Canada for its implications in preventing the spread in schools. We are assessing recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and public health departments to keep you informed of changes.
On Sunday, April 26, 2009, the acting secretary of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency for swine flu. The declaration allows HHS to prepare and mobilize in the event that the outbreak grows to the level of an epidemic in the U.S.
In the U.S., new cases include a cluster identified in a New York City school among students who recently visited Mexico (28 cases as of April 27); two 16-year-old boys in San Antonio, Texas, who attended the same school; and a father and daughter from San Diego County. Another case occurred in a patient from Imperial County, which borders San Diego County. Both California counties are home to the first two swine flu patients that the CDC announced on April 21. Two cases have since been reported in Kansas, four more in Texas, 17 additional cases in New York City, another in Ohio and additional cases in California. As of April 28, the CDC had identified 64 cases. The number of cases is expected to rise as more suspected influenza cases are tested for the virus (H1N1).
Swine flu ordinarily is not transmitted easily from human to human, but the rapid spread in Mexico and the U.S. clusters led Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conclude that the virus is easily spread human to human.
The new swine type A (H1N1) influenza is considered an outbreak. It has not become an epidemic or pandemic influenza. This episode may subside or it may grow. There is a great deal of uncertainty and we'll have to monitor it. In this uncertain environment, we want to reassure members and avoid general panic. At the same time, we should closely monitor school districts to make sure that they mount an adequate response.
The AFT health and safety program has posted a fact sheet that you can distribute to members. If you have questions and concerns, please contact staff at 800/238-1133, ext.5677.
What Is the new Swine Flu?
Ordinary swine influenza is a respiratory infection caused by type A influenza viruses that regularly cause outbreaks among pigs. People do not normally contract swine flu. This novel swine flu Type A virus (H1N1), however, appears to be a combination of pig, avian and human Type A influenza viruses. There is no vaccine that has been prepared for the virus.
Symptoms of the new swine flu are like those of seasonal human flu including fever, upper respiratory symptoms, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills and fatigue. Unlike seasonal flu, however, some patients have experienced nausea and gastro-intestinal symptoms (cramping, diarrhea). Although the cases in Mexico appear to be severe, the recently identified cases in the U.S. have been mild.
Seasonal influenza is generally a challenge for the very young and the old. These groups have higher rates of complications, such as pneumonia. The new swine influenza, however, appears to disproportionately attack young adults. The CDC has not yet identified persons at high risk in the U.S. for complications of swine influenza A (H1N1).
Human-to-human spread occurs in the same manner as seasonal influenza. Influenza is spread through the droplets and aerosols created by coughing or sneezing. The virus can also survive on objects (moist tissues) and surfaces for up to eight hours. People may become infected by touching contaminated objects and then inadvertently touching their mouths or noses.
An infected person may be infectious one day before symptoms begin and up to seven days after the onset of the illness. Persons in close contact (six feet) with a suspected or confirmed case are known to be at high risk of infection. However, some investigators believe that the virus can travel much farther in the aerosols of sneezes or coughs.
There is currently no vaccine for the new swine influenza. The CDC believes that two antiviral drugs, Tamiflu and Relenza, are effective against the new virus. However, these drugs must be administered early on in the course of the illness to be effective. Treatment is recommended for five days. The CDC also recommends a similar treatment regimen (seven days) for the following nonsymptomatic individuals who are at high risk for complications of influenza (chronic medical conditions):
CDC also recommends that healthcare workers or public health workers (including school nurses) who had unprotected close contact with confirmed cases of swine influenza A during a patient's infectious disease period be offered this preventive treatment. Healthcare workers in the area with confirmed cases who work with patients with any acute respiratory illness may also consider treatment.
Very little is known about the effect of these drugs on the embryo or fetus of a pregnant woman. Therefore, the CDC recommends that a pregnant woman and her physician carefully weigh the benefits of taking these drugs before considering a regimen.
Prevention of Transmission in a School Setting
Much like ordinary influenza, prevention of transmission includes: