Thursday, April 30, 2009

Sue Scheff: Parenting and Swine Flu

“During a time if people are nervous or scared, we can run out of essential goods. And so if people begin to prepare now and stock up on those things that can keep over time, such as non-perishable food and water and medicine… they’ll be in better shape for the pandemic.”

– Rachel Eidex, Centers for Disease Control

The outbreak of the swine flu has many Americans, parents especially, worrying about their own safety and the safety of their children. Before a possible pandemic, the CDC has several recommendations.

First, get in touch with your child’s school. “I think they should ask the schools, does the school have a plan for pandemic influenza, what is the plan,” explains Rachel Eidex of the Centers for Disease Control.

And, explains Jacquelyn Polder, also of the Centers for Disease Control, “How will they plan to communicate with parents regarding when the school will close or when it will open.”

Next, the CDC recommends that families have plan that, according to Eidex, would include, what you’re going to do if your children stay home from school.” Also, who will take care of the kids, should they stay in the house, if they do go out- where can they go? And, just as important, how do you keep the family entertained for days on end.

Georgie Renz, mother of two, has an idea, “Board games, songs, please, don’t let the t-v go away!”

Number three on the CDC’s list: stock up on supplies. Families should have at least two weeks of food and medicines stored. “During a time if people are nervous or scared, we can run out of essential goods,” explains Eidex. “And so if people begin to prepare now and stock up on those things that can keep over time, such as non-perishable food and water and medicine… they’ll be in better shape for the pandemic.”

Finally, Eidex advises the best prevention is good hygiene, “Wash their hands regularly. After sneezing, after coughing, after blowing their nose.”

And that’s not always easy for little kids, like 11 year old Morgan, to remember, “Cause sometimes I just get distracted and forget.”

Mother of three, Debra Mecher says, “You have to reiterate, you have to stress ‘wash your hands before you eat, wash your hands after you use the bathroom. Wash your hands whenever you’ve touched something that maybe wasn’t clean.”

And there is no better time to prepare than right now.

“Rather than sitting around and worrying about it and dwelling on it, just get yourself ready the best you can,” says Mecher.

Swine flu is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.

Tips for Parents

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Swine Flu is currently at a phase 4 pandemic alert. Phase 4 is “characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause ‘community-level outbreaks’.” This current outbreak has infected over 250 people in 7 countries. There are over 2,000 more cases still unconfirmed by laboratory testing.

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
There are antiviral medications used to treat swine flu. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within 2 days of symptoms). There is no vaccine, however, to prevent contracting the swine flu.

The CDC gives these tips on how to stay healthy:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Emergency warning signs that your child may need urgent medical attention include:

Fast breathing or trouble breathing
Bluish skin color
Not drinking enough fluids
Not waking up or not interacting
Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Fever with a rash

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
World Health Organization