[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                          May 8, 2009

Surgeon general: No cause for alarm 
with H1N1 influenza outbreak

C. Todd Lopez, Army News Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. — While emphasizing caution, the surgeon general of the Army said there’s no reason to be alarmed by the H1N1 influenza (also known as swine flu).

"It’s important for you all to understand that there is no cause for panic or alarm," wrote Lt. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker, U.S. Army surgeon general in his blog. "Antiviral drugs are available in the event you become ill; and there are preventive measures you can take to stay healthy."

The H1N1 flu virus has been confirmed in such places as Mexico, the United States, New Zealand, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom. There have been deaths in Mexico.

The H1N1 flu usually occurs in pigs, though certain strains can be passed to humans — and from human to human.

"The most-recent cases of the flu appear to have the ability to be passed from person to person and have resulted in a number of cases in the United States as well as widespread disease in certain parts of Mexico," Schoomaker said. "It is likely that this flu will spread to many if not all parts of the United States."

The symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to other kinds of flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. In some cases, there also may be vomiting and diarrhea.

The H1N1 flu is passed from person to person much like other forms of the flu, Schoomaker said.

"Most people catch swine flu the same way they catch the regular flu," he said. "You can catch swine flu by coming in contact with droplets from infected people after they sneeze or cough. This can occur by being in the path of a sneeze or cough or touching something that has those droplets on it and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes."

Medication like Tamiflu and Relenza can treat the swine flu, Schoomaker said. These medications are not available over the counter, however, but by doctor’s prescription.

"If you have (H1N1) flu and need treatment, treatment should start within two days after you begin to feel sick," Schoomaker said. Those with chronic medical conditions are at risk for more severe illness from the H1N1 flu, he said.

According to Schoomaker, neither the Army nor the overall military population are showing any unusual spike in illness that might indicate H1N1 flu. Additionally, the general said, he and other senior medical officials in the joint community are staying abreast of the issue in order to keep the force healthy.

"Rest assured that my staff and I are working the (H1N1) flu issue closely with the Joint Staff surgeon, the assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs, the other military services, Health and Human Services, and Centers for Disease Control and Preventive Medicine," Schoomaker said.

Deployed servicemembers are at no increased risk of infection, according to information released by the Surgeon General’s Office.

The Health and Human Services (HHS) Agency issued a nationwide public health emergency declaration in response to H1N1 influenza. This declaration, made under section 319 of the Public Health Service Act, helps HHS prepare for prevention and mitigation activities by enabling Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorizations of drugs, devices or medical tests under certain circumstances. For more information, visit the Web site http://www.hhs.gov.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta recommends U.S. travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico because officials are concerned continued travel there presents a serious risk for further outbreaks of H1N1 flu in the United States. The CDC currently recommends people follow the same basic steps to mitigate the effects of H1N1 flu that they would to lessen the risk of any type of flu.

People should:
        •  Cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after use.
        • Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.
        • Avoid touching eyes, noses or mouths, which can spread germs.
        • Avoid contact with sick people as influenza is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
        • If you’re sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

CDC regularly updates the information. For more information about the travel warning, visit the Web site http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentSwineFluMexico.aspx. Changes to the recommendation or updates will be posted to the Web site http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel.

Personnel also can check the READY Army Web site at Visit http://www.ready.army.mil. This has a checklist of steps that can be followed in case of H1N1 flu or a flu pandemic.

"If you think you have (H1N1) flu, contact your health care provider. He or she will be able to determine if you need testing or treatment," Schoomaker said.

For more information about H1N1 flu or other health-related issues in the Fort McCoy community, call Barb Stafslien, Nurse Practitioner for the Fort McCoy Occupational Health Nursing Office at 608-388-3209/2414.

(Some information in this story also from the U.S. Army Medical Command, the Centers for Disease Control and Fort McCoy Public Affairs Office.)


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