New Front In Fight Against H1N1
While the H1N1 influenza-A virus continues to spread, with over 6,500 confirmed cases in the United States alone, the Flu has now accounted for more than 10 U.S. deaths. The states that have documented the most cases to date include Arizona, California, Illinois, New York, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has surveillance systems in place to monitor new outbreaks, many doctors and medical practitioners are insisting that basic human hygiene can have a major impact on preventing further spread of the disease.
Buoyed by President Obama's call for Americans to wash their hands and sneeze into their sleeves, Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, advocates, "Simple, common-sense precautionary measures such as hand washing with soap and water is more effective than overwhelming people" with instructions.
More and more, the shift of communicable disease prevention is moving away from hospitals and into the household; a situation that has many parents worried about the health of their children and themselves.
The United Nations World Health Organization (UNWHO) suggests that people be extremely rigorous in the cleaning and disinfecting of germs. While there is no current vaccine for the modified Swine Flu virus that began a worldwide panic in April 2009, the CDC has set up a Web site, www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/, to monitor outbreaks and inform the public on any steps they should take to stay safe.
"At this point, we have recommended that if folks have symptoms... to separate themselves from others by staying home. Parents should keep kids home so that they're not transmitting infection at work or at school," stated Dr. Daniel Jernigan, deputy director of the influenza division for the CDC. With suggestions by medical professionals to stay home if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, some are wondering if there are cleaning products available for the home that can kill the virus.
"Disinfecting all countertop surfaces, whether natural or synthetic, is so important to maintaining a healthy environment," stated Andrew Levine, founder of Stone Care International, Inc. "There are known common bacteria's that develop on countertops and disinfecting them with the correct products can make a significant difference."
Many doctors conclude that H1N1 viruses often circulate without causing major outbreaks, but the new H1N1 virus includes genetic segments from human, swine, and avian flu viruses, so people may not have built up any immunity to it. Consequently, no one knows where this outbreak might lead and why the home is on the front lines of preventative medicine.
Lisa Lowe of Windermere, Fla., is not alone in her worries about the germs her kids bring home from school, day care or summer camp and the interaction they have with other children. "I'm fine with leaving schools open so that my children can continue to learn and be outside during the summer, but I do worry about their interaction with other children," she said.
Another cause of concern is the effect that H1N1 will have on people with pre-existing health conditions. For those people, the flu may become a serious challenge in their battle to stay healthy.
"It's scary," stated Grant Carr of Durham, N.C. "I worry about my family members with pre-existing health conditions so any threat of a flu adds to my stress level. Maintaining a clean home environment and using common sense precautions with available cleaning solutions is the best advice I can give."
As this strain of H1N1 continues to spread, becoming more aware of what can be done to prevent future outbreaks is crucial. As Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced, "Preparation and planning are critical to keep Americans safe in the face of a potential pandemic."
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