What Everyone Should Know About H1N1 Influenza (formerly called Swine Flu)
As you may know, on June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization declared a Pandemic Level 6 for H1N1 Influenza (formerly called Swine Flu), which means that a global pandemic is underway. This declaration does not reflect increased severity of the illness. A pandemic flu declaration was issued when the H1N1 flu virus was shown to have human-to-human, community-wide transmission in two distinct regions of the world. People have little natural immunity to the new H1N1 flu virus, so illness can become widespread.
It is not clear what course this pandemic influenza (flu) will take. Influenza viruses can undergo rapid mutation, changing the character of the illness. There is concern now about what the illness will look like come fall or winter, the traditional “flu season”. Pharmaceutical companies are currently working on a vaccine for the H1N1 flu that may be ready by the fall. But flu vaccines are not 100% effective. The vaccine for the seasonal flu in the 2007-2008 season was only 44% effective.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that the pandemic flu plans activated on April 26, 2009, when the U.S. government first declared a public health emergency for the H1N1 flu, be continued. State and local departments of public health continue to recommend actions that all can take to slow the spread of the flu virus:
- Cover your cough/sneeze with your arm or sleeve (not your hand), or with a tissue that is then thrown away (“cough etiquette”) .
- Wash your hands very frequently-preferably with soap and water.
- Avoid unnecessary contact such as shaking hands (“social distancing”).
Only go to the hospital if it is truly an emergency.
- STAY HOME IF YOU ARE SICK - this includes keeping sick children home from child care, school, or public places like libraries or malls.
- Follow public health advice about avoiding crowds, school closures and other measures to prevent contact with sick people.
The United Steelworkers and the AFL-CIO also have very important recommendations for what employers should be doing now to protect workers, including what employers in hospitals/health care facilities should be doing to protect hospital and health care workers so that they don’t get sick, and are able to take care of those who do get sick.
Click the following links to view and download five factsheets covering what workers need to know about what employers should be doing now to protect workers: