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Preventive MedicinePrimary Care

“Swine Flu” Outbreak in Mexico: What Do We Do?

Each year we recommend the flu vaccine to protect our patients against the seasonal strain of human influenza virus. Human influenza or “flu” is a viral infection that has the ability to change/mutate from year to year. These mutations require an annual refinement in our flu vaccines.

This spring a novel mutated viral infection referred to as a “swine flu” has just arisen in Mexico. It has genetic components from 3 different species of influenza virus — swine, avian and human.

There have been approximately 40 cases of this new “swine flu” infection detected in the United States thus far. All of these cases have been reported to be mild and all seemed to have been linked to persons having traveled to Mexico. In the United States, unlike in Mexico, there have been no deaths reported as a result of infection with “swine flu.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) are carefully monitoring the situation. We will keep our website updated as information becomes available.

Key Points

1.    There is no current specific vaccine available for this infection, although the annual standard flu vaccine that you would have received from us probably has some preventive effects.
2.    There are antiviral medications, both oral Tamiflu and inhaled Relenza, which appear to be effective in lessening the severity of the illness.
3.    Prophylactic treatment with these antiviral agents is not recommended at this time.
4.    We strongly discourage any travel to Mexico that is nonessential.
5.    If this current epidemic becomes a pandemic (worldwide epidemic), we will advise our patients as to what steps they should take to protect themselves from illness.
6.    Should members of our practice develop a respiratory infection with fever, cough, sore throat or runny nose, they should contact our office for an urgent evaluation.
7.     Until they can be seen in the office, members should avoid exposing other individuals and should practice good hygiene with frequent hand washing.
8.    Upon arrival in our office, members with flu-like symptoms will be given a special protective face mask (N-95) and placed in an exam room for evaluation and initiation of testing for this form of influenza.

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