In response to the outbreak of H1N1, or swine ‘flu, which has killed more than 100 people in Mexico, the White House held a briefing on Sunday afternoon with the Secretary of Homeland Security, Acting Director of CDC and National Security adviser to the President, in attendance. The briefing didn’t provide a lot in the way of new information, apart from explaining their response plan, but the govt’s overall tone was reassuring. Which, to my mind, is a good thing because disinformation, or a lack of information, can cause panic, and panic kills. Just take a look at the wild rumors posted on the BBC News site, thanks, in part to the Mexican government’s perceived lack of a coherent strategy.
Speaking of incoherent strategies… After the catastrophic mismanagement of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, it’s refreshing to see a government agency responding to a potential crisis in a calm, organized and timely manner. You know, rather than the epic waste, fraud and ineptitude so prevalent in the Bush administration’s handling of the crisis. In a recent OP/ED in the Wall Street Journal, Karl Rove lambasted the “spend-happy” Obama administration’s plan to invest “$2 billion for the National Institutes of Health, $462 million for the Centers for Disease Control, and $900 million for pandemic flu preparations.” Praise Horus, those half-wits aren’t in charge anymore!
According to the CDC, there are now officially 20 confirmed cases in the US in five states (California, Texas, Ohio, New York, Kansas). The Department of Homeland Security will be the lead agency, aided by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It’s at times like this I wish we actually had a DHHS cabinet secretary, however, President Obama’s nominee, Kathleen Sebelius, is being held up by the GOP’s anti-abortion ideologues. In fact, the Obama administration is heading into its first public health outbreak without its chief public health official or appointees in any of the department’s 19 key posts.
DHHS has declared a “public health emergency,” a legal designation that permits certain public health resources like a portion of the 50 million courses of antivirals in the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) to be prepositioned in the states should the need arise.
The CDC advises:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.
If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. However, there is some good news! The CDC also inform us that you can’t catch swine ‘flu from eating properly cooked pork, so there’s no need to hold back when you next get that BLT craving