Swine Flu & You

pigsLocal officials in Wyckoff, Oakland and Franklin Lakes have been working with their emergency response teams to create plans in the case of a pandemic. The introduction of the most recent variation of the swine flu may eventually put those plans to the test, or at a minimum expedite exercises to practice their implementation. In Wyckoff, the governing body has been focusing energies on developing a local POD, point of distribution, to provide residents a local avenue for receiving any medications dispensed by the government. Franklin Lakes has been holding regularly scheduled CERT training in conjunction with County officials in order for neighbors and residents to help assist in the case of a pandemic. Oakland’s emergency response team has been developing plans for a variety of scenarios, and Councilman Pignatelli has been reporting regularly on progress with regards to Oakland’s plan for a POD.

swine_handsThe virus, a unique mutation of human, bird and swine viruses, has been spreading via human-to-human contact, and residents would be unlikely to contract the virus from eating pork. Hand washing is the first line of defense in preventing the spread of all virus, and this fundamental practice should be followed. The use of hand sanitizers has its place, but studies imply that antibacterial agents in these sanitizers can make them ineffective over time as the virus mutates. Residents should also err on the side of caution when sending a child with symptoms to school. The closed quarters and physical interaction at schools makes this environment particularly conducive to transmission. With regard to eating pork products, the meat should reach a temperature of 160 degrees when cooking. Residents may consider the convenience of crock-pot cooking for pork products that can guarantee the meat is cooked thoroughly without damaging the taste or texture.

Swine flu cases, like the suspected 200 cases in Queens, NY, show the normal symptoms of a flu virus. The new strand, which displays the potential for creating a pandemic, can only be identified by lab tests. The situation in Queens is reporting that of 9 children tested, 8 were identified as having the new swine flu. Cases are being reported in Spain, New Zealand, and Canada. While over 80 people have died from the virus in Mexico, it is believed that America is in a better situation to respond in terms of diagnosis and treatment. The European Union’s health commissioner issued a statement saying residents “should avoid traveling to Mexico or the United States of America unless it is very urgent for them.”

View H1N1 Swine Flu in a larger map

Pigs are well known for being a breading ground for virus mutation as they can contract viruses from both birds and humans. Swine flu is not uncommon; a 2004 study found 20 percent of swine veterinarians and 3 percent of meatpackers in Iowa had at one point contracted the virus. The recent distress is the apparent casual human-to-human contact that is leading to the virus spreading, and has evoked a number of conspiracy theories as to how the mutation occurred.

Some folks are blaming the industrialization of the pork industry which they claim has led to breeding grounds where animals become immune to antibiotics. Other’s have claimed that bioterrorism is the only explanation for a unique virus that incorporates so many different elements. Bioterrorism threats were making headlines in Britain last Autumn as government officials were reportedly deporting graduate students suspected of terrorist ties. Unidentified sources in the government were quoted throughout the national news media of expressing serious concern that the individuals targeted were agents of terrorist organizations.

The well known open encyclopedia source, Wikipedia, recently was edited to remove a sentence with regards to H1N1, “Controversy arose in October 2005, after the H1N1 genome was published in the journal Science. Many fear that this information could be used for bioterrorism.” It was a subject hotly debated within academic circles at the time over the advantages and consequences of making this scientific information easily available. The H1N1 is the variant that was identified in the pandemic of 1918, and in the 1976 New Jersey situation where soldiers at Fort Dix, NJ became ill with swine flue and one died.

swine1918The 1918 pandemic was worldwide with tens of millions of people dying, but the Fort Dix situation is described as the epidemic that never was. While it is believed that the isolated nature of the soldiers’ lives prevented a widespread outbreak, 40 million Americans were inoculated with a relatively untested vaccine. Widespread reports of negative reactions led to a discontinuation of the vaccination program, and the virus remained isolated to the Fort Dix soldiers.

The 1918 epidemic was one of the worst in history. Like the recent mutation, it struck at demographics usually more resistant to flu virus. The vitality of youth, unlike infants, toddlers and elderly, are often able to fight off a virus. The apparent ability of this virus, like its 1918 cousin, is that it can readily impact those who are usually most resistant. The constant interaction in closed quarters, sports, and social activities also makes this demographic more susceptible to the transmission of the virus.

CDC Video on Swine Flu