Deaths in Mexico related to the new A/H1N1 Swine Flu are continuing to climb well over 100 but no serious illness has been reported in the U.S.
Still, preparation is important, and planning is particularly vital for municipalities so the CDC has released new guidelines for community preparation based on the current pandemic threat level.
It is stressed that if the situation worsens the guidelines will also change.
The following is a portion of the guidelines published Sunday night and relate to when the virus is confined to a local community.
“Persons who develop influenza-like-illness (ILI) (fever with either cough or sore throat) should be strongly encouraged to self-isolate in their home for 7 days after the onset of illness or at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved, whichever is longer. Persons who experience ILI and wish to seek medical care should contact their health care providers to report illness (by telephone or other remote means) before seeking care at a clinic, physician’s office, or hospital. Persons who have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath or are believed to be severely ill should seek immediate medical attention.
If ill persons must go into the community (e.g., to seek medical care) they should wear a face mask to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in the community when they cough, sneeze, talk or breathe. If a face mask is unavailable, ill persons needing to go into the community should use a handkerchief or tissues to cover any coughing.
Persons in home isolation and their household members should be given infection control instructions: including frequent hand washing with soap and water. Use alcohol-based hand gels (containing at least 60% alcohol) when soap and water are not available and hands are not visibly dirty. When the ill person is within 6 feet of others at home, the ill person should wear a face mask if one is available and the ill person is able to tolerate wearing it.
Regarding Household Contacts:
Household contacts who are well should:
1. Remain home at the earliest sign of illness;
2. Minimize contact in the community to the extent possible;
3. Designate a single household family member as the ill person’s caregiver to minimize interactions with asymptomatic persons.”
School dismissal is strongly recommended as is the case for childcare facilities.
This means parents should be prepared for the need to care for children during times when they would normally be handled by caregivers.
At the present stage the CDC doesn’t recommend any drastic social distancing but, of course, that could change if conditions worsen.
It is likely that the next stage would simply change recommendations to requirements.
In addition to decades as a science reporter, John A. McCormick has worked for years as a local emergency management coordinator (now retired) and has advised facilities and municipalities on preparations for a flu pandemic.