World Health Organisation says wash your hands and sing 'Happy Birthday' twice to avoid swine flu

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) as of the 2nd May 2009, 16 countries have now officially reported cases of influenza A(H1N1) infection (swine flu).

Of the 658 confirmed cases, Mexico has had 397, including 16 deaths; the United States 160 in 19 states, including one death; Austria 1, Canada 51, Hong Kong 1, Costa Rica 1, Denmark 1, France 2, Germany 6, Israel 3, Netherlands 1, New Zealand 4, Republic of Korea 1, Spain 13, Switzerland 1 and the United Kingdom 15.

A 23 year old Australian living in London has tested positive to swine flu - Mark Robertson, a marketing manager from Coogee in Sydney has been confined to quarters - his flat in Islington, north London, along with his two housemates - one from Australia, the other British - who are not infected but have been instructed to at home as a precaution.

Mr Robertson had apparently been holidaying in South and Central America for four months, before spending two weeks at a Mexican beach resort and became ill a week ago - he arrived in London on April 23rd feeling fine. All three have been prescribed the anti-viral Tamiflu and will undergo tests next week.

To date only one person has died from the virus outside Mexico - a small child from Mexico who travelled to the United States.

The WHO says the situation continues to evolve and further information on the situation will be available on the WHO website.

At present the WHO has not advised any restriction of regular travel or closure of borders but says it is considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention, in line with guidance from national authorities.

The WHO reiterates that there is no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products and advises the public to wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water on a regular basis and seek medical attention if they develop any symptoms of influenza-like illness.

The WHO says clean hands protect against infection and a thorough wash with soap and water takes about as long as singing "Happy Birthday" twice.

An alcohol-based handrub should be used if there is no immediate access to soap and water.

The WHO is reportedly examining its response to the swine flu outbreak in Mexico following claims that the UN agency was slow to react.

The WHO says it was informed by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about the emergence of a new flu virus on April 24th and moved into operation within a matter of hours - reports in the media have suggested that there was a delay of eight days in the WHO's response.

Mexican health authorities reportedly notified the organisation of a possible brewing epidemic on April 16th after "unusual pneumonia cases" and a U.S. biosurveillance firm was seemingly tracking reports of atypical pneumonia and respiratory disease in Mexico early last month which were made available to the WHO.

In Australia there have as yet been no confirmed cases of influenza A H1N1 but 36 people in NSW are currently awaiting test results - anyone suspected of having the virus is being isolated in their home while they await test results.

Health officials say anyone with flu-like symptoms such as fever and cough, fatigue, sore throat or a runny nose who has returned from overseas within the past seven days should contact their GP or local public health unit, or go to their emergency department.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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