SWINE FLU

We believe most of you would have heard of “Swine Flu” by now with constant reporting of this latest threat in the media.

Based on statistics extracted from today’s papers, 149 people have died in Mexico – the epicentre – and another 1,600 are suspected to be down with the disease. Countries around the world prepare to combat the disease and contain the spread as the deadly flu spreads from continent to continent.

Swine flu, a virus that normally infects pigs, has been detected in people (confirmed and suspected cases) in Mexico, the U.S, New Zealand, Spain, Canada, etc. The flu strain making the news is a mutated version that has genetic elements of avian, swine and human influenza.

As of today, most of the countries had implemented temperature screening stations, checking on patients’ recent travel history and putting up posters to tell patients to inform healthcare staff that they had been to Mexico, the U.S and Canada in the past fortnight.

However, in accordance to the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) six-phase alert system, it is currently set at Phase 4, signifying sustained human-to-human transmission and the likelihood of a pandemic has increased.

Swine Flu vs Sars
The swine flu virus is more contagious than the Sars virus such that victims are infectious and are capable of transmitting the disease, even before they get fever or any other visible symptoms.

The infectious period is also relatively longer, from a day before symptoms appear until at least a week later. On the other hand, in the case of Sars, a person becomes infectious a few days later after the onset of fever. Unlike Sars, the swine flu virus is spread without any symptoms, making it 10 times more severe than Sars.

Swine Flu vs Bird Flu
An Australian scientist thinks that a swine flu outbreak is more worrying than bird flu because it is spread much more readily between humans. Swine flu has a lower mortality rate than bird flu.

But while bird flu remained relatively contained as human-to-human transmission was difficult, swine flu was highly infectious.

Symptoms of Swine Flu in Humans
The symptoms are similar to that of regular human seasonal influenza. An early symptom is high fever, followed by cough, sore throat, runny nose, and sometimes breathlessness a few days later.

Precautionary Measures
It is important that each of us observes good personal hygiene practices such as:
1) Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and wash hands immediately after; use a tissue when possible and dispose of it promptly.
2) Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to reduce the risk of the virus spreading from your hands to your face or to other people.
3) Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth if you are caring for someone with flu-like illness, or if you are ill yourself. This will reduce the risk of transmission.
4) Avoid visiting patients in hospitals. Their immune systems are already weak.
5) If you have the flu, stay at home. If you must leave the house, wear a mask.

If you intend to travel to places, which have cases of swine flu, you should:
Avoid contact with persons with flu symptoms
Avoid crowded places
Observe good personal hygiene such as washing hands frequently with soap and water, especially after contact with respiratory secretions (eg. after sneezing and coughing).

Currently, there is NO EVIDENCE to show that swine flu can be transmitted through eating meat from infected pigs and cooking the meat would have killed the virus.

If you suspect you have swine flu, see a doctor and inform the doctor if you had recently been to areas with cases of swine flu. Kindly inform your immediate supervisors and HR representatives if you had been to Mexico, the U.S and Canada in the past fortnight.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep you posted of development as well as preventive measures that we will be adopting when the need arises.

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