Medical leaders keeping track of flu’s spread
June 13, 2009
The World Health Organization’s declaration Thursday that swine flu is a pandemic has no immediate impact on health-care operations in the Europe Regional Medical Command, officials said.
"We continue to track the spread of the disease, and we have sufficient reserves of medications for treating the seriously ill," said Army Col. Evelyn Barraza, ERMC preventive medicine consultant and chief of preventive medicine at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.
The six U.S. troops with swine flu at Landstuhl are responding well to treatment, Barraza said.
Currently, there are no additional cases of swine flu among U.S. troops in Europe, said Phil Tegtmeier, an ERMC spokesman.
Troops deploying to less-developed countries are not being given special instructions or medications because of the swine flu risk, Tegtmeier said.
That swine flu is pandemic — having reached the WHO’s highest alert level 6 — does not mean it is more lethal or has grown stronger, public health officials told The Associated Press.
"A move to level 6 is not a verdict on the severity of the virus," said Scotland’s Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon. "It simply means that the extent of global spread now fulfills the definition of a pandemic."
WHO’s declaration sounds a lot scarier than it really is upon closer examination. While WHO’s announcement made swine flu the first pandemic flu in 41 years, pandemic simply means "prevalent over a whole area, country, etc.," according to Webster’s New World College Dictionary.
The long-awaited announcement is scientific confirmation that a new flu virus has emerged and is quickly circling the globe, the AP reported. In May, several countries urged WHO not to declare a pandemic, fearing it would spark mass panic, according to the AP.
So far, swine flu has caused 144 deaths, compared with ordinary flu that kills up to 500,000 people a year, the AP reported.
About half of the people who have died from swine flu were previously young and healthy — people who are not usually susceptible to flu, according to the AP.
What to do if you catch the flu
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends avoiding others if you believe you are ill.
If you are sick, you may be ill for a week or longer.
You should stay home and avoid contact with other persons, except to seek medical care.
If you leave the house to seek medical care, wear a mask or cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
In general, you should avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness.