Academy medical officials monitor H1N1 flu outbreak

U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- With concern over the swine flu outbreak around North America, Academy medical officials are closely monitoring the situation, prepared to protect the population if the outbreak spreads to the local area. 

If the swine flu continues to spread, health officials may take further actions such as closing schools and child daycare centers. 

"At this time there is no need for alarm, just due diligence," said Col. Alan Berg, 10th Medical Group commander.

The best and most current information is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/.  

To date, approximately 40 human cases of swine flu have occurred in California, New York, Kansas, Texas and Ohio. Mexico, Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom have also reported cases of the swine flu.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs with outbreaks within the swine population happening regularly just as we have seasonal influenza among humans. Although humans aren't normally infected, transmission from swine-to-humans can happen infrequently. Swine flu is not the same as Avian Influenza, but the concern is the same if the virus mutates to a form that can spread by human-to-human contact making it harder to contain.

Transmission of most influenza viruses of concern in humans is by respiratory droplets (sneezing) that spread directly through the air or by contact with contaminated surfaces like doorknobs and telephones.

Although transmission through contact with swine could be the cause of current cases, the spread suggests that swine flu might be transmitted by this human-to-human route -- this is also being investigated by the CDC.

Swine flu is not transmitted through eating pork products.

Symptoms of swine flu are similar to other seasonal flu viruses and include fever over 101 degrees, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue, and less commonly, diarrhea and vomiting.

"Not every head cold or 'crud' is the flu and not every flu is swine flu, although we are obviously increasing our surveillance of flu-like illnesses to track the spread of seasonal influenza and the potential for swine flu to spread around the country," Colonel Berg said. 

Prevention of flu goes to the very basics of frequent hand washing with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, avoid rubbing one's face until hands are washed, covering one's mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and minimizing contact with infected individuals. A caregiver in the home may not be able to avoid some exposure, but masks on the ill member can limit spread and again, frequent hand washing can reduce the risk of contracting the flu.

"Not every case of flu needs to see a doctor - self-care with over-the-counter medications are often sufficient," the colonel said. "Fever that does not come down with acetaminophen or ibuprofen, inability to drink and stay hydrated and a worsening productive cough are reasons to call for an acute appointment. To prevent the spread, ill individuals are encouraged to stay at home or if they must go out to wear a mask to minimize spreading the virus." 

While there are medications to treat swine flu, care must be given to prevent the development of a resistant strain. In other words we should not treat all flu-like illnesses with these medications but save them for more ill individuals. There is no basis for distributing these medications to prevent contracting the virus at this time.

For more information about swine flu, call the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment hotline between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., seven days a week, at 1-877-462-2911. Updated information is also available on the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment Web site at www.cdphe.state.co.us.

People may also contact Academy Public Health at 333-9443.