H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Information
Thursday, March 18, 2010
(Next update as needed)
At Southcoast, your health matters — and so does your peace of mind.
Southcoast has dedicated significant resources over the past months to monitoring the local situation and staying apprised of the ever-changing national and international situation. At Southcoast, we continue to follow the recommendations issued by the CDC and Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
We ask you to continue to use good health practices, most importantly, wash your hands often, practice good "cough etiquette" and stay home if you think you have the flu.
Weekly Report on Novel H1N1 Influenza (swine flu) as of March 18, 2010.
This Week's Developments:
As you can see in this week's report, once again the level of flu-like illness in the state remains low in contrast to what is expected at this time of year. Nevertheless, flu season can last through the spring in Massachusetts so we encourage everyone to get the H1N1 vaccine. Find a clinic near you at http://flu.masspro.org/.
The CDC urges people to stay informed about what to do if they get sick while they're away and to take the following steps when planning their travel:
- Travel only when you are feeling well.
- Wash your hands often, and carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when warm water and soap aren't available.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use your inner elbow, rather than your hands.
- Get vaccinated for both seasonal and H1N1 flu, once they are available, especially if you are a member of a priority group.
CDC Vaccine Fact Sheets
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention have issued fact sheets for the H1N1 (Swine) flu vaccines.
There are two types available: A shot and a nasal spray.
- Flu shot: Inactivated vaccine (vaccine that has killed virus in it) is injected into the muscle, like the annual flu shot. This
sheet describes the inactivated vaccine.
- Flu spray: A live, intranasal vaccine (the nasal spray vaccine) is also available. It is described in a separate sheet.
DPH Guidance for the Public:
Preventing the Flu: Because there is no vaccine for H1N1 influenza, public health officials remind all Massachusetts residents to continue taking simple steps to keep themselves and others healthy.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your cough with a tissue or cough into your inner elbow and not into your hands.
- If you are sick stay home from work — and if your child is sick keep them home from school — until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever (100° Farenheit), or signs of a fever without the use of fever-reducing medications. (This is a change from the previous recommendation that ill persons stay home for 7 days after illness onset or until 24 hours after the resolution of symptoms, whichever was longer.)
- Health care workers who are sick should still stay home for 7 days after illness onset or until 24 hours after the resolution of symptoms, whichever was longer.
- Stay informed about the latest developments on the H1N1 flu.
Anyone in the groups listed below who has a fever, along with a cough, sore throat or runny nose, should contact their doctor to talk with them about treatment with antivirals. Antivirals work best if they are taken within 2 days of when symptoms start, so even people with mild illness should call their doctor right away if they have any of these conditions.
- Children less than 2 years old.
- People age 65 years or older.
- Pregnant women.
- People who have chronic health problems like heart disease, asthma or diabetes.
- Children and teens who are on long-term aspirin therapy who might be at risk for experiencing Reye's syndrome after influenza virus infection.
- Adults and children who have compromised immune systems caused by medications or by HIV infection.
What are the symptoms of swine flu?
The symptoms in people with swine flu are similar to normal human seasonal influenza and include:
- Runny nose.
- Lack of appetite.
- Myalgias (muscle aches and pains).
- Lethargy (tired feeling, low energy).
Conjunctivitis (a type of eye infection) has been reported, but is not common.
Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions and invasive bacterial infection. Symptoms in children may differ. Please check the DPH website.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Practice good "cough etiquette" by coughing or sneezing into a tissue, or into your elbow instead of into your hands.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to avoid infecting them.
Where to find local information on swine flu
Southcoast Hospitals Group posts information on our website on a regular basis.
- Southcoast Hospitals Twitter feed.
- Southcoast Hospitals "Flu Facts" podcast (iTunes link).
- Southcoast Hospitals RSS feed.
- City of New Bedford Health Department.
Where to find the facts on swine flu
When in question it is always best to refer to the experts.
We have highlighted a few items that you will find on these informative sites:
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health swine flu page
- Massachusetts Department of Public Health blog
The following advice is from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:
We don't know if this virus will cause pregnant women to have a greater chance of getting sick or have serious problems. We also do not know how this virus will affect the baby.
We do know that pregnant women are more likely to get sick than others and have more serious problems with seasonal flu. These problems may include early labor or severe pneumonia. We don't know if this virus will do the same, but it should be taken very seriously.
What Southcoast is doing
Southcoast continues to monitor the latest information, guidelines and events coming from our public health officials. Here are highlights of what is taking place behind the scenes:
- The Southcoast PanVax Steering Committee (named after DPH's statewide Operation PanVax to address H1N1 and seasonal flu) has outlined a number of priorities, including employee vaccinations, public education, H1N1 public flu clinics, community outreach and educational posters and information for staff, patients and visitors.
- The hospital is working internally on a number of priorities, including diligent surveillance and screening by our health care providers, infection prevention personnel and laboratories.
- We continue to update our employees on the many levels of care necessary for this type of outbreak, including how to screen and report "suspected cases" of swine flu and how to treat and care for such cases.
- We are constantly evaluating our current supplies that assist in prevention, protection and mitigation of an outbreak that may affect one person to multiple people. This ranges from masks and gowns to beds and medications. We report this information across the three hospital sites and externally to public agencies. An important part of this process is ordering additional supplies and coordinating with the state regarding access to antiviral supplies.
- We are participating in regional, state and national emergency planning. Open lines of communication and coordinating efforts with Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Emergency Preparedness Bureau and Southcoast Emergency Preparedness Planning Partnership continue to be an essential part of our emergency preparedness. It is important to remember, the hospital's Emergency Preparedness Committee meets throughout the year to coordinate drills and plan for all types and levels of emergency incidents.
- Our Public Information Officer is working closely with our local media outlets to provide the most up-to-date information regarding the hospital's readiness and role as well as any important information that our community members need to know about their local health care services.
Advice from Southcoast ER physician Sam Shen, MD
Sam Shen, MD, an emergency medicine physician at St. Luke's Hospital, spoke with WPRI Channel 12 (CBS) for a story on swine flu that ran on April 30, 2009. Click here to watch video.
(Sources: The Center for Disease Control, World Health Organization and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health: Swine Flu Alert DPH 4-30-09)