H1N1 Swine Flu Spreading Faster than other Pandemics

In Health and Safety, Outbreak by Paul Martin5 Comments

Wow… if the pandemic doesn’t seem real enough to you just yet, take a look at the latest report from the World Health Organization.  This pandemic is spreading fast and furious.

As the 2009 pandemic evolves, the data needed for risk assessment, both within affected countries and at the global level, are also changing.

At this point, further spread of the pandemic, within affected countries and to new countries, is considered inevitable.

This assumption is fully backed by experience. The 2009 influenza pandemic has spread internationally with unprecedented speed. In past pandemics, influenza viruses have needed more than six months to spread as widely as the new H1N1 virus has spread in less than six weeks.

The increasing number of cases in many countries with sustained community transmission is making it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for countries to try and confirm them through laboratory testing. Moreover, the counting of individual cases is now no longer essential in such countries for monitoring either the level or nature of the risk posed by the pandemic virus or to guide implementation of the most appropriate response measures.

Monitoring still needed

This pandemic has been characterized, to date, by the mildness of symptoms in the overwhelming majority of patients, who usually recover, even without medical treatment, within a week of the onset of symptoms. However, there is still an ongoing need in all countries to closely monitor unusual events, such as clusters of cases of severe or fatal pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus infection, clusters of respiratory illness requiring hospitalization, or unexplained or unusual clinical patterns associated with serious or fatal cases.

Other potential signals of change in the currently prevailing pattern include unexpected, unusual or notable changes in patterns of transmission. Signals to be vigilant for include spikes in rates of absenteeism from schools or workplaces, or a more severe disease pattern, as suggested by, for example, a surge in emergency department visits.

In general, indications that health services are having difficulty coping with cases mean that such systems are under stress but they may also be a signal of increasing cases or a more severe clinical picture.

A strategy that concentrates on the detection, laboratory confirmation and investigation of all cases, including those with mild illness, is extremely resource-intensive. In some countries, this strategy is absorbing most national laboratory and response capacity, leaving little capacity for the monitoring and investigation of severe cases and other exceptional events.

Regular updates on newly affected countries

For all of these reasons, WHO will no longer issue the global tables showing the numbers of confirmed cases for all countries. However, as part of continued efforts to document the global spread of the H1N1 pandemic, regular updates will be provided describing the situation in the newly affected countries. WHO will continue to request that these countries report the first confirmed cases and, as far as feasible, provide weekly aggregated case numbers and descriptive epidemiology of the early cases.

For countries already experiencing community-wide transmission, the focus of surveillance activities will shift to reporting against the established indicators for the monitoring of seasonal influenza activity. Those countries are no longer required to submit regular reports of individual laboratory-confirmed cases and deaths to WHO.

Monitoring the virological characteristics of the pandemic virus will be important throughout the pandemic and some countries have well-established laboratory-based surveillance systems in place already for seasonal influenza virus monitoring. Even in countries with limited laboratory capacity, WHO recommends that the initial virological assessment is followed by the testing of at least 10 samples per week in order to confirm that disease activity is due to the pandemic virus and to monitor changes in the virus that may be important for case management and vaccine development.

Updated WHO guidelines for global surveillance reflect in greater detail these recommended changes, in line with reporting requirements set out in the International Health Regulations.

For those of you in hospitals, does this sound right to you?

Paul Martin

Paul Martin

I am the Director of Multimedia at ProTrainings, as well as the primary blogger here. I take care of the video editing, graphic design and corporate branding that you see on every video and every page on this site, as well as at ProCPR®, ProFirstAid®, ProBloodborne, StudentCPR, etc. My work is literally everywhere that ProTrainings goes. I also handle our Twitter accounts, so be sure to follow us there, if you use twitter! You can be sure that I’m not just an average joe writing this blog, but one of the founders of the company.

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  1. Christine

    I would like to ask a question. I work in a county jail. We have a paper with three questions on it concerning the Swine Flu and I would like to know if you feel this is adequate questions or maybe other suggestions:
    1. Have you had any upper respritory illness recently, cough, stuffy nose, unproductive cough?
    2. Have you been exposed to anyone who has had these symptome?
    3. Have you traveled out of the area into an area high in outbreaks? Have you been within 6 feet of someone who has?
    I feel because this is becoming so wide spread that this is inadequate questions. What is your opinion?
    Thank You

    1. Paul Martin Author
      Paul Martin

      Those three questions are actually very relevant to Swine Flu, although I can see your point about how vague they are. They seem like they could be the common cold or any other common illness. You can never be too careful when it comes to Swine Flu, though. A boy in Miami, who was only 9 years old, suffered from asthma. He was brought to the hospital within 24 hours of having flu like symptoms, and died the next day. Tests confirmed the presence of the swine flu virus. He died only four days after he was last in school. (Breitbart)

      I might also include some sort of listings for areas that have had outbreaks lately, as well as instructions for keeping yourself healthy as much as possible.

      I’ll see if I can find some more information for you as well. Perhaps others will chime in too!

    2. Paul Martin Author
      Paul Martin

      Alright Christine, I spoke with a colleague of mine, and he recommended this site for finding exactly what you’re looking for.


      Read through it thoroughly. It has information that your questionnaire does not include, involving other symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting. I’m sure you can find great information to help build up a greater defense against H1N1 there!

  2. Jim

    Hi, I work in a densely populated call center where employees are required to share desks. Last week we had a confirmed case of swine flu, but management wants to keep it under raps. They installed hand sanitizers by the restrooms, but they are already empty and not maintained. Saturday night they had the carpets cleaned. (The 1st time in over 5 years). As a front line manager with consistent close contact with the reps I don’t believe these measures are adequate. (Half the employees don’t even wash their hands, let alone attempt to use hand sanitizers) I took a weeks vacation, but am desperately looking for a new job as I don’t feel safe there anymore. Our strict attendance policy and unpaid time-off is a recipe for disaster. Would you agree that concealing a known case from the employees is unethical?

    1. Paul Martin Author
      Paul Martin

      That’s a very good question, Jim. The CDC actually provides instructions for what to do in a situation such as this:

      What to do for co-workers of an employee who is a suspected or confirmed case of novel influenza A (H1N1) flu:
      * Inform the employees of their exposure to a co-worker with confirmed, probable, or suspected pandemic H1N1 flu during the ill person’s infectious period.
      * Have the employees monitor themselves for symptoms.
      * Advise employees to check with their health care provider about any special care they might need if they are pregnant or have a chronic health condition such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or emphysema.

      Personally, I would want my employer to do the above, as well as the many other recommendations that are provided, including the hand sanitizer, etc. All of that is important, and recommended. It looks like they are following some of the protocols that OSHA recommends, but disclosure of the presence of H1N1 is another part of it.

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