If you’ve been reading, watching, or listening to the news over the last week, you’ve probably heard about the cases of H1N1 influenza (or "swine flu") that have broken out in Mexico and in a few locations in the United States and other parts of the world. On April 29, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 5, sending a "strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short." In other words, more cases may be on the way.
People with diabetes tend to be more susceptible to infections like influenza and, once infected, often stay sicker longer than people who don’t have diabetes. While you shouldn’t panic, it’s important to stay informed about the swine flu situation in case a pandemic does occur. So we thought that this would be a good time to share some resources, from our Web site and others, about diabetes and flu.
For up-to-the-minute information about the swine flu, keep an eye on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Web page www.cdc.gov/swineflu. It tracks how many cases have been documented in different states, has tips on how to stay healthy, and links to other useful Web sites and pages. You can also sign up for e-mail updates on this page.
The CDC suggests the following everyday actions to help prevent the spread of swine flu: covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; washing your hands regularly with soap and water; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; avoiding close contact with people who are sick; and staying at home from work or school if you do get sick.
Also, according to the CDC, people who have diabetes or another chronic condition or are elderly should take special precautions if they must travel to an area where cases of swine flu have been reported. It is suggested that these people take the prescription antiviral drugs Tamiflu or Relenza while traveling in these areas to help prevent infection.
Amy Campbell’s blog entry “Fight Flu and Pneumonia: Get Vaccinated!” shares facts about the flu and flu vaccines, including why people with diabetes should make sure to get vaccinated. (A vaccine against the swine flu doesn’t exist yet and may not be available for months, but the WHO reports that several laboratories around the world are working on producing one.)
My blog entry “Flu Shot Especially Important for People with Cardiovascular Disease” shares research that found that people with heart disease can significantly lower their chance of dying by getting themselves vaccinated against influenza.
The blog entry “‘Be Prepared': Not Just the Boy Scouts’ Marching Song” and the article “Living Alone and Living Well With Diabetes” offer important tips on how to prepare for sick days and handle your diabetes when you are ill.
Are you taking any special precautions to protect yourself from the swine flu? Do you have any more resources to share? Let us know with a comment.