Swine Flu School Closings
Over 100 U.S. schools have closed due to concerns about the spread of swine flu. In the case of 74 of these schools, the closings were related to confirmed or probably cases of swine flu at the school. The other thirty schools that have closed did so as a precautionary measure. The swine flu school closings so far affect 8 states and 56,000 people. In related news, the Fort Worth Independent School District (Texas) announced it would close all the schools in the district due to the swine flu scare. These school closings will affect over 80,000 school students. Given proximity to Mexico, where this outbreak started, the State of Texas UIL shut down all sporting events in the state, for fear these events would lead to spread of the disease.
As the flu spreads from country to country and the words “possibly pandemic” are being used more frequently, it’s a good idea to learn all you can about swine flu and how to prevent occurrences of swine flu in your home and community. Let’s start with what we know about “swine flu”.
What Is Swine Flu? Where Did It Start?
Swine flu is not new. Different strains of swine flu have affected humankind for at least a century and probably a lot longer than that. The swine influenza is constantly present in swine through the western U.S., Canada, Mexico, South America, Europe, East Asia and Kenya. It is very rare for swine flu to transmit from swine to humans, though, and there have been only 12 cases of Americans with swine flu since 2005.
Unfortunately, the influenza is a relatively fast mutating virus, so new strains of influenza will sometimes occur that do infect humans. That’s what has happened in this swine flu outbreak – a new strain of swine flu that is resistant to our previous vaccines and immunities. Scientists say that the current “swine flu” is technically not swine flu, but combines two strains of human flu, one strain of avian flu as well as swine flu. With this knowledge, scientists are looking for a new vaccination for this latest strain of swine flu (called H1N1), which should be produced sometime in early to mid May, 2009.
Until then, people should be careful about contracting swine flue, and the swine flu school closings are necessary in schools where someone has already contracted the flu. The H1N1 swine flu virus is descended from the Spanish Influenza pandemic that ravaged the world in 1918 and 1919. That flu outbreak, largely seen as an aftermath of World War I, killed some 20,000,000 to 100,000,000 people worldwide and killed between 500,000 and 670,000 Americans in roughly a years time. In fact, the Spanish flu is thought to have caused twice as many deaths as World War I, which was the most fatal war in history at the time.
Another variant, an Asian flu strain, hit the United States in 1957 and is thought to have killed 70,000 Americans and 2,000,000 people worldwide. The Hong Kong flu spread in 1968 and 1969, killing 33,000 Americans and 50,000,000 worldwide. The swine flu appeared again briefly in 1976, infecting 500 U.S. soldiers, but quickly went away.
Should I Panic Over Swine Flu?
When considering these numbers, keep in mind that flu symptoms typically kill 36,000 Americans every year, usually among the elderly and usually resulting from pneumonia brought on by the flu. Most of those killed in previous outbreaks are the elderly, the very young and the infirm. If you are one of these people or you care about one of these people, take care to keep them away from possible flu infection.
Also, keep in mind that as people die from flu, those with natural immunities to swine flu and other flu strains are more likely to survive and carry those genetic immunities. As you’ll notice from the statistics above, each new outbreak generally causes fewer deaths. This can be attributed to advances in medical science and a greater percentage of the population with natural immunities to the most deadly effects of influenza. In either case, we can hope that this latest outbreak will not cause anything like the death toll caused in the previous stated outbreaks. But we all need to take precautions, in case this turns into a pandemic.
What Is a Pandemic?
A “pandemic” is an epidemic that spreads through a population over a large area or region, such as a continent or the entire globe. If the word “epidemic” sounds bad, then the word “pandemic” is several magnitudes worse.
How Do You Avoid Swine Flu?
People first got this virus from working near swine. At the point of pandemic, the swine flu virus is spread from human to human. That’s why Mexico City was quarantined. Here are the ways to avoid spreading the swine flu or having the swine flu spread to you. When trying to combat the spread of swine flu, use your standard infection control techniques, but with special care.
- Coughing and Sneezing – Swine Flu virus is an airborne disease, so when people carrying the virus sneeze or cough, they spread the germ in a contagious form.
- Touching Something With the Virus On It – If you touch an object that has swine flu virus on it and then touch your mouth or nose, you’ll be infected by swine flu.
- Very Contagious Early On – During the first five days of illness, swine influenza is especially contagious. Children might remain contagious for up to 10 days.
- Frequent Washing Hands With Soap, Water – After being out in public, wash your hands with soap and water. Before and after eating, wash your hands with soap and water. After sneezing or coughing, wash you hands with soap and water.
- Hand Sanitizer Also Works – If you don’t have ready access to soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer also works.
- Cough Into Your Sleeve – If you don’t have ready access to soap & water or hand sanitizer, avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands and instead sneeze into the crook of your elbow. While this may gross you or people near you out, this prevents the virus from being spread when you touch a door knob. Wash yourself as soon as possible with soap and water, though.
- Social Distancing – Quarantine is the ancient and most certain way of avoiding a disease. If you want to avoid contracting swine flu, isolate yourself from those at risk. If you go to work or social events, spread out from people more than you normally would. “Social distancing” is why officials have announced the swine flu school closings on such a mass scale. If children are not in contact with one another, they cannot infect one another.
- No Concerns About Eating Swine Meat – Swine flu is not spread through the eating of infected meat. The swine flu virus is a living organism, so it dies rather quickly when cooked or even when outside of a host body for too long. So there is absolutely no concern about getting swine flu from eating pork.