Pandemics and Masks.

Flu Season….Isolation Precaution Season. Typically peaking in January or February.

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Sound familiar? When you walk onto the unit and 23 out of 24 rooms are in isolation. Mask… check. Gloves… check. Beautiful yellow drape… check. Ahh the thrills of flu season. Every nurse, physician, RT and any other health care personal that I am missing loves it. The time to sprint from room to room, while you effortlessly sport the latest fashion trend. Your yellow (at least ours are yellow) papery gown. Yup, it’s no Gucci or Prada but it will do. So let’s dive into this topic a bit. Let’s see if we can gain a fragment of knowledge for the next few minutes.

You have heard of H1N1, have you heard of H5N1, or now H7N9?

A new avian flu has decided to make an appearance. According to the CDC a new avian influenza  A (H7N9) strain, has been first reported March 2013 in China. So the question here, is there a fresh wave of H7N9 that we need to worry about?

Most cases are believed to have come about from exposure to contaminated environments and infected poultry. Infected poultry and people have been found in China. Though mild cases have been seen and reported, this strain presents itself with severe respiratory illness and with 1/3 mortality rate of those infected (www.cdc.gov). So the question here is how easily is it transmitted? It has not been confirmed if it can be transmitted between people, but there have been rare cases of transmission. Cases with poultry exposure have been found in China’s neighboring countries (www.cdc.gov). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), has reported 132 human H7N9 infections, with 44 deaths. The numbers have decreased most likely to the diligent efforts of China to eradicate the strain (www.cdc.gov).

The major concern with this strain is the possibility of a pandemic exposure (reminds me a bit of the movie Contagion-if you haven’t seen it your in for a doozy). The CDC is following this strain closely, the fear is that this strain will develop the super bad guy ability to spread “and gain the ability to spread easily and sustainably among people”. Thus triggering a real life version of contagion (maybe not to that extreme but you never know). But you get the idea right? Studies have also shown like the seasonal flu/influenza virus, the avian strain also has a seasonal pattern: the strain seems to circulate at higher levels during the cold weather and at lower levels in warmer weather.

So what is being done to prevent and contain this? The CDC and other organizations are working on identifying a flu vaccine, in the case that it is needed. In addition, continuous flu based education is being conducted for those traveling between the US and China.

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So let’s look at some of the signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Initial s/s high fever, cough
  • Severe PNA
  • Acute Resp. Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
  • Septic shock
  • Multi-organ failure

How do I know I may not have H7N9?

There are many factors, and similar symptoms with other strains. If your flu lasts longer than 10 days, with severe respiratory problems. Have you been to China and you have been in contact with someone who has been confirmed with this strain. You need to contact your doctor for any concerns or medical advice. Again, remember the flu strains all have similar s/s. Your doctor will determine course of action/treatment.

For additional questions I have added a link to the CDC frequent asked questions site.

H7N9: Frequently Asked Questions

Reference

http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avianflu/h7n9-virus.htm

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/28/health/h7n9-bird-flu-china/index.html?hpt=he_c2

http://www.flu.gov/about_the_flu/seasonal/

http://www.who.int/influenza/human_animal_interface/influenza_h7n9/en/

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