The declaration means that the new flu virus is spreading quickly around the world. Howard LeWine, M.D., Harvard Health Publications
On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the H1N1 "swine flu" virus outbreak pandemic, raising the alert level from 5 to the highest at 6. What does this mean?
First, the definition of epidemic means that occurrence of a disease is higher than "normal." However, the definition of pandemic is still up for discussion, although it is accepted that it would apply to occurrence of a disease that is higher than normal across the globe.
Is "pandemic" reserved for infectious disease? Maybe. The WHO says that the determining factors of a pandemic are:
- it is a new occurrence in a population that has not previously or recently experienced it;
- it infects humans;
- it is contagious and spreads easily among humans.
However, an infection can be contagious, but not dangerous, as the H1N1 is deemed. Nonetheless, WHO has made certain suggestions - that countries can elect to ignore - to control the spread of the virus.
At the same time, you may already be immune to H1N1 if you fit a certain profile, such as being a Baby Boomer. Or, if you are infected, you could develop immunity against future, more dangerous strains of the virus.
We've heard about the reported deaths from this virus. However, most of those were among persons whose immune systems were impaired for one reason or another.
Do you know what precautionary measures your workplace or school will be taking to help protect you and your family from infection or spread of swine flu?
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