Update 2014/01/18: Noted that the 2009 flu tracking site is historical only. You can try these sites which are being updated. Other new resources are at the bottom of this post.
Update 2009/04/04: The new H1N1 virus seems to be milder than other seasonal human influenza but remember that 36,000 people die of the flu every year in the USA. If you have it, it is imperative that you are treated early if you are in one of the risk groups, and you should quarantine yourself so as not to spread it.
Well, it’s not the Avian Flu that we were all worried about, it’s the Swine Flu dubbed H1N1, a new strain of never-before-seen influenza that has surfaced in Mexico, Europe, and parts of the U.S. It has international health authorities on alert and has sparked fears of a worldwide flu pandemic. The new virus – a stew of various swine, bird, and human influenza strains – has killed as many as 103 in Mexico. The U.S. now has 40 confirmed cases, Canada six and Spain one, while authorities in Israel and New Zealand are investigating possible cases.
Instead of panicking, what should you really be doing?
- Stay calm, be focused, and get ready – If you are a continuity planner, dust off your pandemic plan now and start talking to your executives
- If you don’t have a plan, you need to develop one quickly
- Send sick employees home quickly; don’t take chances
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 30 seconds – Singing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star twice gets you there and will make washing hands fun for children
- Keep a bottle of alcohol-based cleaner (i.e. Purell) in your purse or backpack and use it if you cannot get to a sink
- Cough into your elbow or somewhere on your upper arm. Covering your mouth with your hands will only spread the virus or germs to the next thing you touch.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread that way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Avoid close contact with others and their secretions. This means the usual handshakes, hugs and kisses (and sharing drinking glasses, food, and utensils), should be avoided for now
- If you get sick, think very seriously about staying home from work or school, and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them
- If you suspect that you have the flu, get tested by your doctor to verify whether or not it is the Swine Flu
- Stay informed and stay away from scams
This map (no longer updated) showed how the flu had spread. Reading the map is very simple: The pink markers are suspect, the purple markers are confirmed, and deaths don’t have a black dot in the marker. The yellow markers are negative.
Above all, don’t buy in to the media panic. Yes, the 1968 “Hong Kong” flu pandemic killed about 1 million people worldwide. And in 1918, a “Spanish” flu pandemic killed as many as 100 million people. But did you know that the Centers for Disease Control estimates that 5% to 20% of the US population develops the flu, more than 200,000 are hospitalized, and about 36,000 die? The risk of death from this new flu is not that much greater over a “normal” year. You can subscribe to ProMed for daily updates that are credible and validated. This is a moderated site and highly reliable.
Other Resources (I am not endorsing any of these. They are here for completeness):
- Preventing the Flu (CDC)
- About the Flu Vaccine
- Find a Family Doctor
- Flu Home Treatment: Types A, B, C, and Swine Flu (WebMD)