NOT PANIC, BUT PRUDENCE The death of a 23-month-old Mexican boy in Texas was the first confirmed fatality from swine flu in the United States, further raising concern about the rapid spread of the disease. Indeed, the threat of swine flu is real and serious. The number of confirmed swine-flu cases is approaching 100 nationally. About 150 people have died from the disease in Mexico – the epicenter of the outbreak. An additional 2,000 there are believed to be infected with swine flu. The stock market, travel industry, and other businesses have been impacted. However, the growing global alarm needs to be tempered to avoid panic, while also increasing public awareness, safety measures, and swift responses. After some alarm, a vacationer hospitalized in Philadelphia turned out not to have swine flu. Meanwhile, some probable cases await confirmation in New Jersey and Delaware. In the Caribbean, Belize is reporting suspected cases of swine flu and has cancelled major public events. In Barbados, Minister of Health Donville Inniss also confirmed that at least two local samples had been sent off to the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre (CAREC) in Trinidad and Tobago to be tested for the virus after an increased number of people with flu-like symptoms began seeking medical attention. And over in the Bahamas, 10 students and teachers who arrived at the beginning of this week are under quarantine. Getting a simple message out can be good medicine. Personal hygiene precautions taken during any flu season should be adopted by everyone. If serious flu symptoms hit, it’s important to seek medical attention sooner. US President Obama has urged schools with confirmed or suspected cases to close temporarily. What lies ahead now is a months-long process – or longer – that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano yesterday likened to “a marathon, not a sprint.” That’s why it’s all the more important to avoid health responses that rely on bad science or mask agendas. Importation bans on pork products are steps the World Health Organization says are not needed because the virus can’t be transmitted by eating pork. However, while health authorities have said that humans cannot be infected by eating pork or pork products, Antigua and Barbuda and Suriname have banned the importation of those items from Mexico and the United States. Another unnecessary step would be to close borders or clamp down on travel, acts that may have more to do with anti-immigration sentiment than the job of safeguarding the nation’s health and peace of mind. The news of the epidemic possibly reaching the Caribbean came as the WHO raised the global alert level for the swine flu virus to five, just one short of the maximum. This means that there has been sustained human to human transmission in at least two countries and a pandemic is imminent. So far, there have been no reported cases of swine flu in the Federation and there is no need for the public to panic, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Patrick Martin. At a press conference in St. Kitts Monday afternoon Dr. Martin assured the public that systems had been tested, personnel had been trained, and health officials and those working at the ports of entry were ready. “Surveillance is in place at the ports, the official ports,”he told the press. We urge prudence and caution at this trying time.
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