Sunday, May 3, 2009

Swine Flu: H1N1

Fighting and preventing infections
There are many places for information. MRSA, for example, is a web site with information on fighting this bacteria, which applies to all communicable diseases or viruses. You must protect yourself in day care, at school, at your gym, as well as in hospitals. These viruses and superbugs exist everywhere: air, soil, toys, phones, coins, all handles (doors, shopping carts, in public and at home), and taps. Here is an Ontario map of incidents. Here is a WHO map of current stats.

* People who have symptoms of respiratory illness should call their health care provider or call Telehealth at 1-866-797-0000, TTY 1-866-797-0007. Cases are increasing. Click here for an interactive (CBC-created) map of current incidents world-wide.

These Superbugs can exist on curtains, bed spreads, taps, and become airborne. If you cannot wash your hands use a sanitizer. Alcohol-based gels or sanitizer should contain between 60 and 70 % alcohol to be effective. You should wash your hands with anti-bacterial soap and water after 5 applications.

It is terribly important to protect yourself, your children, caregivers and seniors from the risk of contracting swine influenza (flu). The Center for Disease Control offers some more tips for family, as well as signs and symptoms.

They define Swine flu: "Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine flu happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Most commonly, human cases of swine flu happen in people who are around pigs but it’s possible for swine flu viruses to spread from person to person also."

What happens is that the virus mutates and it is then passed on to humans. CBC's FAQ page says, "These cases occur in persons with direct exposure to pigs, such as children near pigs at a fair or workers in the swine industry."

The most frail depend upon many caregivers for their ADLs. Those in hospital, hospices or Long-Term Care see many PSWs, therapists, or volunteers in a day, as well as nursing staff. Each time a new person enters their room to bring them medications, water, snacks, change their bed, get them up out of bed, to transfer them to a wheelchair, they risk bringing bacteria with them. The US Government is tracking Swine Flu progress. BBC news is similarly tracking the flu. Canada has 55 cases as of Sat., May 2nd. A total of 28 cases of influenza A (H1N1) have been reported in seven European countries.

=> fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Of course, contact your doctor. They suggest you not go to emergency. There are retrovirals, but likely, if you haven't been to Mexico, you have the 'regular' flu! Don't forget the BRAT diet: Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, Toast. Drink plenty of fluids.

Risk factors include:
  • The very young or elderly
  • Palliative care recipients
  • Patients with chronic illnesses
Symptoms of typical superbugs (bacteria) can include anything from mild to severe abdominal cramps, high fever, severe diarrhea, leading to dehydration, inflammation of the colon and even death. This is the same with flu viruses, except the viruses can be air borne as a victims coughs and sneezes. This can happen through contact with a surface, and then using the contaminated hand to eat, rub an eye, or any other activity that allows the bacteria to enter the body. (Bleach is the only thing that kills a superbug.) Alcohol sanitizers don't kill superbugs.

Warning Signs
If your child experiences any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care:
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not waking up or not interacting
  • Being so irritable that he or she does not want to be held
  • Not urinating or no tears when crying
  • Their symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

What can you do about it?

At there are many suggestions that might help. The Ministry of Health & LTC, has good suggestions. Unfortunately, for vulnerable seniors, they may be unable to advocate for themselves. The Center for Disease Control has some more information.

One trend in Canada is to suggest that you ask your Primary Care staff if they have washed their hands. Others include various preventative measures. One problem is that Primary Care deliverers do not change their scrubs or their protective gloves. Another issues involves items, such as door handles, surfaces, i.e., food trays, stethoscopes, blood pressure cuffs and bed rails, and even privacy curtains that are washed infrequently.

If you are at home and caregiving, you must be careful to thoroughly wash everything after any contact. Bedding needs to be washed in hot water, and dried on high heat, if possible. This includes clothing, and cloths. You can buy protective padding that will help cover mattresses. Surface disinfection is important: hand rails, cups, anything anyone touches can carry the virus.
With the first case in Sudbury, incidents will be on the rise on Central Ontario, too.

Visitors must be directed to practice safe visits.
  • Social distancing - do not visit if you have signs and symptoms of colds, infections or flu
  • Practice excellent hand hygiene - see below
  • If you need to cough - cough into your elbow - not your hand which touches a surface and leaves the virus behind
  • Wash your hands after a visit. Those who visit many clients can carry viruses or bacteria from patient to patient.
  • Stay away from anyone for whom you might pose a risk
  • Boost your immunity by getting adequate sleep, eating properly and taking 500 mg Vitamin C each day.
  • A new study of pet therapy dogs shows just how easily hospital germs can be transmitted to visitors.

Why is hand washing important?

Hand washing, when done correctly, is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. Good hand washing technique is easy to learn and can significantly reduce the spread of infectious diseases among both children and adults. Wash after you change rooms, before and after eating and preparing meals, and after going to the bathroom, or serving any of the needs of care recipients.
See this post for videos on hand washing. It is crucial you keep bacteria and germs away from frail seniors and young children.

A new study out:
Visiting pets, including Therapy Dogs who can pass on infections. A dog with MRSA on its fur had spent time in patients’ beds and was kissed by patients. The findings were reported in a letter published in The Journal of Hospital Infection.

This is an informative video that explains how infections are spread.

1 comment:

Mary said...

Thanks Jenn. Posts like this will help to educate and curve some of the fear. I think we need to take these measures all the time, not just when there is a threat.