IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers| IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers|

Travel Health Journal

IAMAT - The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers

Human Swine Influenza Outbreak – Update #2

As more news updates about the swine flu outbreak are coming in, sometimes contradictory, it’s easy to panic and forget common sense.

Reports of the infection spreading to more countries, new travel health advisories for Mexico, and the World Health Organization revising the infection status as causing ‘community-level outbreaks’, tend to inadvertently increase our level of fear. In all this flurry of activity, it is important to keep in mind that this situation is not a pandemic and that a majority of cases have reported mild symptoms (although it is yet unclear why the strain is more virulent in Mexico). In fact, the regular seasonal flu is currently a larger threat to public health than swine flu.

This outbreak is a good reminder to review daily health sanitation habits. The following steps – to prevent the transmission of the flu – should be taken everyday, regardless of a viral outbreak.

  • Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly (15-20 seconds with soap and warm water).
  • Cover your sneezes and coughs using a tissue, or if you don’t have a tissue handy, use your elbow sleeve. Properly dispose the tissue and wash your hands.
  • Drink lots of fluids, eat healthy food, manage your stress, exercise, and get regular sleep.
  • If you experience flu-like symptoms, stay home and contact your doctor or healthcare practitioner immediately. Avoid contact with healthy people.

Public health experts and scientists believe that a swine flu vaccine will not be ready for another 3-6 months. The current anti-viral vaccines do not protect you against swine flu, however it may lessen the virulence of the infection. In case you are not vaccinated against seasonal influenza, contact your physician to see if it is recommended for you, but keep in mind that current anti-viral supplies are low.

For updated information:
World Health Organization
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Public Health Agency of Canada
Secretaria de Salud / Mexico