From staff reports
Based on the spread of flu infections in the U.S. and globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) has raised its alert level to Phase 5, urging countries to activate pandemic preparedness plans.
In addition, the organization said Thursday that it would stop using the term swine flu to avoid confusion over the danger posed by pigs and would begin using the strain's scientific name -- H1N1 influenza A.
The World Health Organization's highest declaration is Phase 6, which indicates that a pandemic is under way. According to the organization, 11 countries have officially reported 331 cases of H1N1 influenza A.
In the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday reported 109 laboratory-confirmed human cases, including the death of a 23-month-old child from Mexico who was being treated in Houston. One case has been confirmed in Ohio, according to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH).
At Ohio University, health and safety officials are meeting regularly to develop contingency plans for ensuring the health of students, faculty, and staff in the event that a local infection is confirmed. Those efforts include reaching out to faculty or students studying or working abroad and developing contingency plans for completion of academic requirements should classes or programs need to be canceled or abbreviated.
University officials also stress that WHO's urge for "pandemic" preparedness activates established plans for response, prevention, and awareness and is not cause for panic.
The American Psychological Association offers some steps an individual can take to manage anxiety about the flu, including getting the facts, keeping things in perspective and maintaining social networks.
At the same time, health officials are recommending that individuals maintain basic precautions for minimizing the risk of becoming infected, including:
- Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Scientists estimate that people are not washing their hands often or well enough and may transmit up to 80 percent of all infections by their hands. For a video on effective hand-washing tips, click here.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Stay home if you get sick with influenza and see your doctor. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Additional information is available on the ODH and CDC Web sites at www.odh.ohio.gov and www.cdc.gov/swineflu. The state health department also is operating an information line from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To access the line, please call 1-866-800-1404.
If you have a concern about exposure or experience flu-like symptoms -- including fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue -- you should see a medical provider immediately. For information on Ohio University's Student Health Service (SHS) hours, visit www.ohio.edu/hudson/shs/.
Students who experience symptoms outside of SHS hours should visit the O'Bleness Memorial Hospital emergency room.
For the most current information regarding travel advisories, click here.