Swine Flu alert level raised
By Robin Scott
On Monday, the World Heath Organization (WHO) reported that 76 countries have officially classified 35,928 cases as influenza A (H1N1) infection, swine flu. To date 163 people have died worldwide. The United States has reported 17,855 laboratory confirmed human cases or 49.69 percent of the total cases worldwide. Deaths in the United States have reached 45 or 27.6 percent of the total deaths worldwide. The Phase 5 Alert issued by WHO has been changed to Phase 6.
WHO states that a Phase 6 Alert is the pandemic phase and is characterized by “community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria for a Phase 5 Alert.” A Phase 5 Alert is characterized by “human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region.”
According to WHO, the overall severity of the influenza pandemic is moderate. The assessment is based on scientific evidence and input from its Member States on the pandemic’s impact on their health systems, and their social and economic functioning. On its website, WHO states that the moderate assessment reflects that, “Most people recover from infection without the need for hospitalization or medical care; Overall, national levels of severe illness from influenza A(H1N1) appear similar to levels seen during local seasonal influenza periods, although high levels of disease have occurred in some local areas and institutions; Overall, hospitals and health care systems in most countries have been able to cope with the numbers of people seeking care, although some facilities and systems have been stressed in some localities.”
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) provides information regarding confirmed cases of swine flu in Texas on its website. To date 2,050 cases have been confirmed in Texas with five deaths. Seventy-six of the 254 counties in Texas have confirmed cases. Hidalgo County remains the county with the highest number of confirmed cases at 400. Lubbock continues to remain the closest to the Dallam/Hartley counties area with nine confirmed cases.
Symptoms associated with swine flu to watch for are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort. The strain of the current outbreak of swine flu is said to cause only mild symptoms and the infected persons should recover within a few days.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ) may be found on the WHO website at www.who.int. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also has information available to the public online at www.cdc.gov. Information provided by the Texas Department of State Health Services online may be found at www.dshs.state.tx.us.