Worldwide: Swine Flu Updates

As of 27 April 2009 several countries are taking urgent steps to control the spread of swine flu. The new strain of influenza may have killed up to 103 people in Mexico; more than 1,600 people are believed to have been infected, with 400 of those requiring hospitalization. Fifteen states in Mexico and Mexico City have reported possible swine flu cases, with the highest numbers in San Luis Potosi, Mexico state and Mexico City. To prevent the spread of the virus, on 24 April Mexico City officials canceled all public events for 10 days. In addition, authorities have closed schools in Mexico City and in the states of Mexico and San Luis Potosi, intending to reopen them on 6 May.

In the United States, cases have been reported in California, Texas, New York, Ohio and Kansas. There have been no deaths in any of the confirmed infections, but health officials have expressed concern that a widespread outbreak could lead to more serious cases. U.S. officials have not indicated that a closure of the U.S.-Mexico border is planned, but airlines and border patrols have stepped up screenings of travelers from Mexico. The Department of Homeland Security has declared a national public health emergency.

Confirmed cases have also been reported in Canada, Spain and New Zealand, and suspected cases have been reported in the United Kingdom, France, Brazil, Hong Kong and Israel. So far, no governments or international institutions have banned travel to Mexico; however, officials in several countries have instituted measures to detect and screen passengers from Mexico and the U.S. who exhibit flu-like symptoms. Passengers with such symptoms may be quarantined. The European Union health commissioner has encouraged Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to the United States and Mexico.

The World Health Organization (WHO) will meet with medical experts on 28 April to discuss the possibility of raising its pandemic alert level. The alert level is currently at three, which denotes the discovery of a new strain of influenza. WHO officials stated that more epidemiological information was needed on the strain before a change to the current level could be considered.

MEDEX Global Group has issued the following recommendations:

Travelers should take precautions against infection by avoiding large crowds, limiting physical contact with others, avoiding public transportation and using proper hand washing techniques.

MEDEX also advises that generally, empiric treatment with Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or Zanamivir (Relenza) is recommended.

Anyone who comes into contact with a person experiencing flu-like symptoms should contact a health professional.

Travelers should follow local public health recommendations, particularly with the number of reported cases on the rise.

About Tim McDowell

Colorado ACFEI Member's Homeland Security Weblog
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