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kid washing his hands with antibacterial gel The best prevention is to wash your hands well and often. Wash with soap while singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" twice. (Photo: Jeremy Portje/Dubuque Telegraph Herald/Rapport Syndication/NewsCom)

Pandemic Level Increased

Swine Flu still a threat, but can be prevented, U.S. doctors say

By Daniel Wetter | null null , null
The best prevention is to wash your hands well and often. Wash with soap while singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" twice.
The best prevention is to wash your hands well and often. Wash with soap while singing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" twice.

The swine flu outbreak became a phase 6 pandemic on June 11, declared the World Health Organization (WHO). Officially known as the H1N1 virus, the flu is being transmitted communitywide in both North America and Australia. A pandemic is an epidemic (disease outbreak) over a widespread geographical area.

Most people do not need to be any more worried about H1N1 than the regular flu, says Dr. Glennah Trochet of Sacramento County Public Health. Which does not mean don't worry. Preventive measures should be taken, especially for the elderly and people already suffering from other ailments.

"We need to be appropriately concerned," Dr. Trochet said. It cannot be ignored, but it can be prevented with easy measures, she stressed. Dr. Torchet and Dr. Tom Hopkins, the Chief Medical Correspondent on NBC's Sacramento Station, KCRA, talked recently to the Scholastic Kids Press Corps about swine flu concerns. They also discussed how to prevent getting or spreading the disease.

The H1N1 virus originated in Mexico in early April of this year. It started in pigs and spread to humans. There was a similar epidemic in 1918 that killed over 1 million people.

"It's a combination of bird flu, human flu, and now swine flu," said Dr. Hopkins. "I look at it as another flu. Viruses are viruses and all they need is the right host."

To prevent becoming a host, wash your hands with soap and water to the tune of 'Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star' two times. Wearing a surgical mask does not help prevent the spread, the doctors said.

You should also get a flu vaccine. The vaccine for the swine flu is scheduled to be distributed in the late fall, early winter. People will be advised to get a fall vaccine and possibly another dosage later in 2010.

Dr. Trochet pointed out that the regular seasonal flu is statistically worse than this flu has been so far. Worldwide, the regular flu infects approximately 1 billion people a year, resulting in 300,000 to 500,000 deaths. Currently, the H1N1 virus has infected 29,669. About 145 people have died worldwide. In the United States, 17,855 cases have been reported resulting in 45 deaths.

The symptoms of the H1N1 virus are very similar to the regular flu, if not the same. The person would have upper respiratory type symptoms including a cough and congestion, The person would also have a fever. Symptoms begin quickly. You are fine one minute and sick the next.

"It is like being hit by a truck," Dr. Trochet said.

Both doctors urged everyone to take preventive measures throughout the next flu season, which normally begins in the fall.

"Viruses don’t discriminate," Dr. Hopkins said.

Dr. Trochet added that doctors worldwide are watching the H1N1 closely. "This is a new virus not seen before in humans," Dr. Trochet said. "We're not quite sure what we’re dealing with yet."

Getting an early start on monitoring this disease has put the WHO in a "strong position," says Dr. Margaret Chan, Director-General of the organization."No previous pandemic has been detected so early or watched so closely, in real-time, right at the very beginning," she said. "We have a head start."

She also added that because of the early monitoring and prevention measure, the pandemic level should stay at "moderately severe."

"The overwhelming majority of patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid and full recovery," she said.

Being health conscious and getting vaccinated will make you part of the solution.


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Daniel Wetter is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.

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