The swine flu problem isn’t in the pigs

As easy as it may be to assume, there’s no evidence that the swine flu spreading through Mexico and beyond is sickening pigs now.

The World Health Organization reports that illnesses in Mexico are climbing close to 1,000 with more than 50 deaths—all of which are human. Eighteen of those cases were laboratory confirmed by labs in Canada.

Though, as a precaution, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is “asking swine producers, veterinarians and labs to increase their vigilance in monitoring for and reporting swine disease.”

Is that a better use of resources than increasing monitoring activities of flu-like symptoms in humans?

The Public Health Agency of Canada website says of human swine influenza, “Sporadic human infections with swine flu have occurred, however these are usually caused by direct exposure to pigs,” and, “Human to human transmission of swine influenza has been documented.”

Are Canadians getting the whole story? Is this the best way to protect public health?

In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have identified 20 human cases of swine flu in several states, and an investigation website outlines what is known about the virus to this point (it’s susceptible to certain antiviral drugs) and the steps being taken to find out more.

This information gives the public a better picture of the possible risks to their health and how those risks are being managed.

The interested public can generally handle more, not less, information about food safety.

Swine flu prevention Singapore-style: wash hands, win a sports car

Singapore launched its CSI — clean, safe, infection-free — handwashing campaign Monday that gives thorough hand-washers the chance to win a sports car, a plasma TV or shopping vouchers.

Chng Hiok Hee, a doctor at Tan Tock Seng hospital and the head of the two-month-long campaign said,

"Good hand hygiene is crucial in stemming the spread of infections and there is no reason why the public should not learn the seven steps to hand washing practiced by medical professionals.”

The seven handwashing steps include interlacing your fingers and rubbing your hands together, rubbing your thumbs and wrists, and rubbing your fingertips on your palms, to clean all areas.

Our version? Vigorously rub hands for at least 10 seconds using soap under vigorously running water, and dry vigorously with paper towel. Friction – with vigor —  is a wonderful thing.

Courtlynn Powell: Swine flu’s making me nervous

Daughter and would-be blogger Courtlynn (below right, exactly as shown) writes that,

“Coming home from school this afternoon, a rush of fear and anxiety seemed to linger. 20 people died in Mexico. 500 nurses in Mexico have this, as well as people returning from Canada, in the past week. It’s spread from California to Texas.”

The N.Y. Times reports this morning that Mexican officials, scrambling to control a swine flu outbreak that has killed as many as 61 people and infected possibly hundreds more in recent weeks, closed museums and shuttered schools for millions of students in and around the capital on Friday, and urged people with flu symptoms to stay home from work. …

The new strain contains gene sequences from North American and Eurasian swine flus, North American bird flu and North American human flu, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A similar virus has been found in the American Southwest, where officials have reported eight nonfatal cases. …

Mexico’s flu season is usually over by now, but health officials have noticed a significant spike in flu cases since mid-March. The W.H.O. said there had been 800 cases in Mexico in recent weeks, 60 of them fatal, of a flulike illness that appeared to be more serious than the regular seasonal flu. Mexican officials said there were 943 possible cases.

Still, only a small number have been confirmed as cases of the new H1N1 swine flu.