EDITORIAL: Swine flu cautions

Mississippians should count themselves fortunate that our state’s Department of Health, with links nationwide and worldwide, has the spread of swine flu sharply in focus in its efforts to report, prevent and treat cases in our state, if and when they happen.
Facts about potentially dangerous public health situations help prevent panic, which is always harmful when reasoned and intentional responses are required.
The human swine flu outbreak is a new phenomenon as a public health issue. There’s no vaccine yet, but scientists are working to find one, and at least two medications used in treating more common flu strains are effective.
Hard experience in the past 100 years has shown how lack of knowledge coupled with lack off precaution leads to serious, even fatal outcomes in widescale influenza outbreaks.
Even with vaccines available today for some strains, about 36,000 people die each year from influenza in the United States.
The World Health Organization, in response to known cases internationally, has issued a Phase 5 alert, the second-highest level of concern for a pandemic – a worldwide outbreak.
And, on Monday, the Centers for Disease Control issued a travel warning recommending that Americans avoid non-essential travel to Mexico, where numerous confirmed cases have been reported in more than half of Mexico’s provinces.
The first great influenza outbreak of the past 100 years, during World War I, spread through travel, in the battlefield trenches of Europe, in military training centers stateside, and finally across the United States, including Mississippi.
Medicine and prevention today are far advanced, but the world is much more crowded and international travel faster and more common. Human interaction creates the common opportunities for the swine flu to spread from person to person – coughing, sneezing, and lack of basic preventive sanitation and hygiene.
Simple measures like hand-washing, covering sneezes and coughs, and staying at home if you become ill, can help prevent spread of swine flu.
Using factual information to advantage is the best first step.

NEMS Daily Journal