Ramstein responds to worldwide H1N1

by Dr. (Col.) Paul S. Doan
435th Medical Group Public Health Emergency Officer

The outbreak of H1N1 influenza, or swine flu, continues to grow. As of April 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 64 confirmed cases in the United States. A 2-year-old child from Texas died April 29 from H1N1 influenza.

Internationally, the number of countries reporting confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza continues to grow. The World Health Organization says at least 105 cases have been confirmed. In Mexico there are roughly 2,500 people affected with respiratory illnesses with more than 159 deaths. There have been 26 confirmed cases in Mexico, including seven deaths.

The following countries have confirmed cases with no deaths: six in Canada, three in New Zealand, two in the United Kingdom and two in Israel and Spain. There is a report of two cases in Germany – one in Hamburg and one in Regensburg. Both people were returning from Mexico. The WHO has raised the worldwide pandemic alert to Phase 5 with the confirmed person-to-person spread into at least two countries of one WHO region.

The H1N1 virus is causing respiratory disease in pigs. People do not normally get H1N1 influenza, but human infection does happen. This virus strain has not been seen before. The symptoms of H1N1 influenza are similar to human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some do have vomiting and diarrhea. In severe cases, it can cause pneumonia, respiratory failure and death.

The flu viruses are spread from close contact with pigs or from person to person through coughing or sneezing.

Occasionally, one can become infected by touching contaminated surfaces with flu viruses and then touching his/her mouth or nose. The infected person can infect others one day before the symptoms start and seven or more days after becoming ill.

Presently, this virus is sensitive to the newer anti-viral medications Tamiflu and Relenza. There is no available vaccine for H1N1 virus at this time.
Possible work on a new vaccine is underway. However, there are some preventive measures that can be taken to  decrease the risk of getting influenza.
Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue in the trash afterward. Wash hands often with soap and warm water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth to prevent the spread of germs. Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you get sick with influenza, it is recommended that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Medical personnel at Ramstein and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center have been preparing for this type of scenario for the past several years.
A Disease Containment Plan has been developed and practiced to prepare for response to any infectious epidemic.

Health professionals have been meeting on a daily basis to monitor the outbreak and to provide guidance in concert with guidance from higher headquarters.
Our health care providers are increasing the surveillance of patients meeting criteria. Anti-viral medications and protective equipments are in place to respond.
Our health professionals will be meeting with local host nation health professionals to coordinate our response to the H1N1 influenza.

The U.S. Army Center for Health Promotion and Preventive Medicine Europe is the U.S. European Comman lead agent for surveillance and public education on diseases. Since the situation is fluid, more information will be available to you.

For more up-to-date informaiton, visit www.cdc.gov and www.who.int.
(Source: www.cdc.gov and www.who.int)