...vital information to protect you and your loved ones from an impending swine flu pandemic.
What you need to know now
to protect your family from a swine flu pandemic
How dangerous is the swine flu?
Experts are divided. Some are predicting a world wide pandemic that could take millions of lives.
Others say the whole thing is blown out of proportion, citing the fact that it's a disease that so far has proven to be relatively benign.
So far there have been less than 200 people killed by the H1N1 virus. You stand a greater chance of being killed by lightning. In this respect, the naysayers are correct.
But the flu virus never stands still. It is constantly changing. It has the potential to commingle its genetic material with that of a human influenza virus and, in so doing, acquire the ability to be transmitted from person to person.
If and when this happens, nobody will have resistance to it and a pandemic is inevitable.
World watching pandemic unfold: WHO
ABC News, May 18, 2009
Humanity may be witnessing an influenza pandemic unfold, the head of the World Health Organisation said as Japan reported a big jump in infections with the newly discovered swine flu virus.
Flu fears dominated the start of the WHO's annual congress in Geneva, where many of the 40 countries touched by the flu strain urged the United Nations agency to rethink its pandemic alert scale that is now at the second-highest notch.
WHO director-general Margaret Chan says the outbreak that began in North America and has stretched to Europe, Asia and South America needs to be tackled with seriousness even though its symptoms appear to be largely mild.
"For the first time in humanity, we are seeing, or we may be seeing, pandemic influenza evolving in front of our eyes," Ms Chan told the World Health Assembly meeting in Geneva.
"We are all under pressure to make urgent and far-reaching decisions in an atmosphere of considerable scientific uncertainty."
The annual congress was shortened in length to allow health ministers to go home earlier and resume their monitoring for flu infections.
Is the risk big enough that you should be concerned?
Should you start stockpiling food and water and face masks and other necessities on the basis of a threat that may never come to pass?
Frankly, after examining the facts and ignoring the hype, we've come to an uncertain conclusion.
We're convinced that a pandemic is inevitable, but we just don't know when. We're hopeful that medical science will find a way to protect us by the time it arrives, but we're not willing to bet our lives on it. Therefore we have taken all reasonable steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones if a pandemic does hit.
While we think it's premature to panic, we must point out that this is the scariest flu related news that we have heard in a long time. No, it's not the dreaded H5N1 strain that's caused so much havoc in Asia and other countries. But this one started out with a very aggressive mortality rate of 6-7%. While the bird flu has only killed 257 people in the past 7 years, this one claimed 60 victims in a matter of days.
And since Mexico is a major holiday destination, everyday planeload after planeload of tourists are arriving back home in Canada and the U.S. Add to this the hundreds of thousands of people crossing over from Mexico by land and we could well be witnessing a pandemic in the making.
Late Breaking News...
Swine Flu May Have Infected More Than 100,000 Americans
By Steven Reinberg
SATURDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- While the official tally of confirmed U.S. swine flu cases topped 4,700 on Friday, experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate the true number of infections at more than 100,000 nationwide.
Also on Friday, health officials announced two new deaths linked to the H1N1 virus, bringing the nationwide total to five.
"Today we had our fourth death reported from Maricopa County in Arizona," Dr. Daniel Jernigan, from CDC's Influenza Division, said during an afternoon teleconference Friday. "There are more deaths and hospitalizations that we are monitoring," he said.
The Arizona patient, a woman in her late 40s with an underlying lung condition, died last week, the Associated Press reported.
Also on Friday, health officials in Nueces County, Texas, announced that state's third swine flu-related death, an unidentified 33-year-old man with multiple underlying health conditions who died May 5 or 6, according to the AP.
The two new fatalities come after two others in Texas and one in Washington state. All of the victims had underlying health problems besides the flu.
Most cases of swine flu occurring in the United States appear to be mild, health officials said.
In fact, "estimates of the confirmed and probable cases in the United States is probably not the best indicator of transmission at this point," the CDC's Jernigan said. "The outbreak is not localized, but is spreading and appears to be expanding throughout the United States. This is an ongoing public health threat."
It's a little hard to estimate the number of people who may be infected with swine flu, Jernigan said, "but if we had to make an estimate, I would say that the amount of activity we are seeing with our influenza-like illness network is probably upwards of 100,000."
Jernigan said there also seems to be more cases of flu generally in the United States -- both the seasonal and the new H1N1 swine flu -- than is usually seen at this time of the year. "There are 22 U.S. states that are reporting widespread or regional influenza activity, which is something that we would not expect at this time," he said.
In other news, the CDC on Friday lifted its general warning that Americans avoid non-essential travel to Mexico, considered the origin and epicenter of the outbreak. Instead, the warning has been downgraded to a "precaution" that now advises people who might be at high risk for complications from the flu to reconsider travel to Mexico.
But in a troubling sign that the swine flu outbreak has yet to run its current course in the United States, three New York City public schools were closed Thursday after dozens of flu-like infections surfaced and an assistant principal was in critical condition on a ventilator, according to published reports.
You CAN survive a flu pandemic!
There's just something about a killer virus that sends chills down our backs. Because we can't see it we never know where or when it's going to attack.
Like AIDS, however, a flu pandemic is 100% survivable. It just requires some modification to your lifestyle.
Why Facemasks are Absolutely Necessary during a Pandemic
Ever since the Bird Flu scare erupted 4 years ago we have been urging our readers to stock up on face masks and we think there are several compelling reasons for doing so.
If you are infected you are protecting those around you by wearing a mask. When you cough or sneeze the mask will trap the particles so they can't escape to infect others. It's interesting to note that in Western society we consider it a sign of bravado to continue to go to our jobs when we're under the weather. In Oriental society people don face masks the minute they come down with a sniffle. It's a sign of politeness and they wouldn't dream of mingling with others without wearing their mask. In this respect we in the West have a lot to learn from them.
If there's a pandemic and you need to be around others, wearing a mask provides a significant degree of protection. Note however that it must be a tight fitting mask with an N95 rating. The N95 rating means that the mask will trap 95% of all pathogens that are greater than 1/3 of a micron in size. While the H1N1 virus is smaller than the mask pores, and theoretically should be able to pass right through, when someone coughs or sneezes the virus it is enveloped in moisture which is larger than the mask pores and so is effectively trapped. (The masks that we sell have been tested to 1/10 of a micron)
Probably the most common way that people are infected is from hand to mouth or hand to nose contact. It's almost impossible to avoid doing this. The average person touches his/her face several hundred times per day. Wearing a face mask provides the most foolproof protection available.
During a pandemic most public places will be barred to anyone not wearing a face mask. If you need to go shopping, or anywhere else where there are people, you will need a mask.
It may seem counterintuitive, but when you're wearing a face mask people will avoid coming close to you. They automatically assume you must be sick. This is good because you should maintain a distance of at least 6 feet from people whenever possible.
For everyone who has the foresight to stockpile face masks there are probably a thousand who haven't. And during a pandemic face masks will be impossible to obtain. It took less than a week for every major supplier to run out of masks in April. If you have extra masks you'll be able to help your friends who were caught unprepared.
Take Action Now to Protect Your Loved Ones
MARCO UGARTE/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Passengers in Mexico City's subway wear masks to guard against infection April 24, 2009. Health experts advise regular hand washing as another precaution.
WHO warns of 'even stronger' swine flu outbreak
From correspondents in Hong Kong
May 04, 2009 11:52am
THE head of the World Health Organisation has warned that swine flu may re-emerge stronger than ever, even if the current outbreak appears to be declining.
Margaret Chan told Britain's Financial Times that an apparent decline in mortality rates did not mean the pandemic was coming to an end and a second wave may strike "with a vengeance''.
"If it's going to happen, it would be the biggest of all outbreaks the world has faced in the 21st century,'' she said.
"We hope the virus fizzles out, because if it doesn't we are heading for a big outbreak.
"I'm not predicting the pandemic will blow up, but if I miss it and we don't prepare, I fail.
"I'd rather over-prepare than not prepare.''
She said the end of the flu season in the Northern Hemisphere meant any initial outbreak could be milder, but a second wave more lethal.
A total of 18 countries around the world have reported cases of human swine flu, with hardest-hit Mexico confirming 22 deaths in all.
But authorities in Mexico said the epidemic appeared to be levelling off, while in the United States an official at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spoke of "encouraging'' signs.
Ms Chan insisted the WHO was basing its assessment on scientific risk and was not scare-mongering, and defended its global pandemic alert assessment, which officials have said could soon be raised to the maximum level of six.
"All governments are concerned and taking it extremely seriously. It's a tough call,'' she added.