According to new surveillance statistics released on Friday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), forty-seven states in the U.S. are now reporting widespread influenza activity . The virus, which first appeared in the Southeast, has reached epidemic levels.
Know What to Do About the Flu is a webcast series launched by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to hlep distribute timely and accurate information about the flu. Their goal is to distribute the latest facts and medical guidances so we can all be more effective in combating the spread of the flu and be better prepared should our families, our communities or our workplaces become affected.
In this edition, moderator Lark McCarthy discusses the level of testing prior to the H1N1 influenza A vaccine distribution and the subsequent monitoring that’s planned during and after the phases of distribution with Dr. Bruce Gellin, Director of the National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO) within the HHS, Dr. Jesse Goodman, acting chief scientist with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Dr. Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and Dr. Anne Schuchat, Director of the Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Two studies, which are available online as early release articles and will be published in the November edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), detail the characteristics, treatment and outcomes of critically ill patients with H1N1 in Mexico and Canada [1-2].
Although the death rate in each of the studies is quite different, it nonetheless is as high or higher than that of seasonal flu. Furthermore, although seasonal flu typically affects people of older age — the average annual rate of influenza-associated hospitalizations over the last 20 years for people age 65 and older is 70%  — these studies show that H1N1 is striking many who are much younger. In both studies, the majority of critically ill patients with influenza A H1N1 had rapidly progressive respiratory failure and required mechanical ventilation.
Preliminary results from two studies published online last week by the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) show that a single dose of the H1N1 vaccine will offer protection for most adults within three weeks of vaccination [1-2]. This is good news in the fight against H1N1, since the vaccine won’t be ready until the start of flu season. On Sunday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said that some vaccine may be available as early as the first full week in October .
Although the immediate threat of H1N1 — the swine flu — appears to be benign, experts say that the emerging strain could return in a more virulent form in future flu seasons . And with increasing reports of the swine flu close to home, hand washing is more important than ever. Indeed, hand washing is the best way to prevent infection and illness. Some scientists estimate that as much as 80% of all infections are transmitted by unwashed hands . Hand washing is the single most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of infection and to stay healthy. As simple as it may be, there’s a trick to effectively washing your hands with soap and water.
Kids learn early on in preschool that to truly prevent the spread of germs, you’ve got to wash your hands. Nevertheless, a dab of soap and a quick rinse isn’t effective. The key is to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to ensure that you’ve removed the microbes. By rubbing your hands with soapy water, you pull dirt and oil from your skin. The soap lather suspends any germs trapped inside and are then washed away when rinsing.