Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu - what are the chances in The Woodlands?

I consider our risk to be high. This is why.

1. Children are bussed to school. They are very social on the bus, making an ideal place to spread the virus. They will bring home the virus.
2. Classroom and playground are ideal areas to spread the virus.
3. The mall is a good place to spread the flu. Any indoor public areas will be risky.
4. There is a smaller risk in most of our workplaces, but unfortunately some people will go to work even though they have been exposed to the virus at home.
5. Cinco de Mayo will facilitate additional exposures to Mexican nationals, by some people traveling to Mexico and some family members traveling here.
6. We have a higher percentage of Mexican nationals living here than the norm. That causes more frequent traveling to and from Mexico by family. The good thing is that it is not summer yet, but that is right around the corner. Some universities end their school year next week, just in time for the movement of students.
7. Many residents here routinely travel. That mobility exposes our community to risks posed by the confined areas of airplanes.

We can help ourselves by washing our hands frequently. It is already difficult to find face masks and disinfectant hand wipes. If you see any at the store, get them now. Also, I would have over-the-counter fever medicine handy, plenty of jello and other liquid foods. This is like preparing for a hurricane. You may be stuck in your home for a week or so. Parents must be willing to interrupt their work lives.

Go to the doctor only if you must. It would not be good to get exposed at the doctor's office. If you are running fever and it appears that you need to go to the doctor, please go! The biggest risk is secondary infection. You want to take preventative measures to reduce the risk of catching a secondary infection. It is best not to shop by sight when the virus problem becomes more widespread and acute. Shop by knowing what you need and where to get it. have grocery lists instead of spending a lot of time casually buying groceries. Remember that after being exposed, you should avoid going to the grocery store. You can become a carrier or even worse, be infected and about to be bed ridden yourself. Wash your hands while at public places. Change clothes after being at a public place. You may bring the virus into your car.

The flu is not necessarily a disease which will put you in bed. Those who have a mild case are those who spread the disease the most. Going to work with a cold is normal for many people. Don't go to work with the flu! Don't send the children to school with the flu! And don't be overly concerned if a school is closed due to exposures. The schools will be closed to prevent the spread of the disease, but that measure is only precautionary and a practical measure to prevent an epidemic, not indicative or predictive of an epidemic.

This flu outbreak threatens our economy, which is fragile at the moment. A shutdown of services would not be good for the economy. However, expect that this may happen. We are buying time until the summer when there is less of a chance to spread the virus, due to school being out. You might want to rethink any vacation plans in Mexico.

Most of all, do not panic! Don't feel compelled to have a vaccination with something that does not help you ward off this disease. Tamiflu may help in some cases, but it might have a negative effect on your health also. Discuss these issues with your doctor and do what is right for you and your family. There are some prescription treatments available that may reduce the intensity of the disease. This flu is likely to be like a cold that everyone gets at the same time. It is highly contagious but not a severe threat to most people. Babies and the elderly are usually at a higher risk than middle aged people; their immune systems are not as strong and ready to ward off secondary infections. At the time of this writing, it was unclear what the situation is in Mexico. It appears that middle aged people are the majority of deaths. This is puzzling the medical field.

There is an effort to prepare for this as an emergency. Our leadership is being advised of what measures can be taken and what actions are imminent in the interest of public health. This effort is precautionary only, not predicting a disaster!

Related Links
1. US Government Pandemic Flu website
2. Center for Disease Control and Prevention - Swine Flu
3. Who - influenza-like viruses in the United States
4. Texas Department of State Health Services - Swine Flu
5. Channel 11 News - How does the flu test work?
6. UTMB - Pandemic flu and preparations needed

No comments: