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Novel H1N1 Flu –
also known as Swine Flu
What is novel H1N1 flu?
H1N1 (referred to as “swine flu” early on) is a new influenza virus causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in April 2009 in the United States. Other countries, including Mexico and Canada, have reported people sick with this new virus. This virus is spreading from person to person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. H1N1 flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. H1N1 flu viruses cause high levels of illness and low death rates in pigs. These viruses may circulate among swine throughout the year, but most outbreaks occur during the late fall and winter months similar to outbreaks in humans. The classical swine flu virus (an influenza type A H1N1 virus) was first isolated from a pig in 1930.
Why this new H1N1 virus is sometimes called "swine flu".
This virus was originally referred to as “swine flu” because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and avian genes and human genes. Scientists call this a “quadruple reassortant” virus.
To continue, go to: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/qa.htm
For specific information refer to: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ for the most up to date information on the flu.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently increased the level of influenza pandemic alert. In the 2009 revision of the phase descriptions, WHO has retained the use of a six-phased approach for easy incorporation of new recommendations and approaches into existing national preparedness and response plans. The grouping and description of pandemic phases have been revised to make them easier to understand, more precise, and based upon observable phenomena. Phases 1–3 correlate with preparedness, including capacity development and response planning activities, while Phases 4–6 clearly signal the need for response and mitigation efforts. Furthermore, periods after the first pandemic wave are elaborated to facilitate post pandemic recovery activities.
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Influenza A H1N1 History
There has been a growing concern around the world that we are due for a pandemic influenza. A pandemic influenza is one which spreads around the world once or often several times. It will make many people ill and even kill many people. Throughout history we have had several pandemic influenzas. The worst one in modern history occurred in 1918. It caused terrible illness and deaths to many millions of people around the world. Since then we have had pandemic influenzas in 1957 and 1968. Currently, scientists are concerned about the swine flu that has been in the news, H1N1. It is not uncommon for these strains of viruses to mutate at which time it may be transferred from human to human and could quickly travel around the world from city to city, country to country, and continent to continent. It appears that the swine flu is easily transmitted from person to person.
Right now in the world the H1N1 has become an immediate concern. It can be transmitted from person to person. It has spread in Mexico and is spreading in other parts of the world including the United States. No one really knows yet how dangerous the virus is, or how sick it will make people that have caught it, we must plan for the worst. It is not a time for panic, but rather a time for preparedness to protect our workers and help our customers who will need our products.
To protect against a flu pandemic, one must have some understanding of the possible modes of transmission. It is now generally believed that there are three modes of transmission: large droplets generated from coughing and sneezing, aerosols that can remain airborne for long periods of time, and direct contact with infected secretions (called fomites). Complicating the matter is that the transmission of influenzas is not completely understood, and it is likely that transmission may occur from a combination of all three modes.
Coughing and sneezing produces many large droplets, and these large droplets stay airborne for very short periods of time. If a person with a virus sneezes or coughs, the large droplets produced will contain the virus. However, since the droplets are large and stay airborne for a very short period of time, one must be in relatively close proximity to the infected person to become infected. The problem is that these droplets tend to evaporate quickly and, therefore, become aerosols with a smaller particle size. These smaller particles remain airborne for longer periods of time. Some very small particles can remain airborne indefinitely because the air currents in a room will supersede the particles propensity to drop out of the air. Smaller particles can enter the lower respiratory system of a healthy person with ease and infect them.
Protection from these particles appears to be an important factor in reducing the risk of infection, if a pandemic occurs. In some cases the CDC, OSHA, and WHO recommend that employees, including healthcare workers, use NIOSH certified respirators at the N95 or higher level. OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic, dated February 2007, recommends the use of N95 or higher rated filters for very high or high exposure risk situations. CDC makes the same recommendations where there is a risk of exposure to these high risk bio-aerosols. Also recommended are supplied air respirators or powered air purifying respirators for certain high risk medical or dental procedures that are likely to generate these bio-aerosols. In all cases, the respirator wearer must be properly fit tested and trained and be part of a comprehensive respiratory protection program.
Employers must plan ahead, if they want to properly protect their employees. The elements of a comprehensive respiratory protection program require some time and forethought and cannot be done in a hasty manner. Consideration must be given to having enough stock of respirators on hand, fit testing the employees, and training them on the proper use. All of this takes time, and consideration must also be given to other PPE and their compatibility with the respirators chosen.
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