H1N1 (Human Swine Flu)
Most cases of H1N1 in Canada are mild with patients recovering at home with no need for medical care. However, it is important to know what you can do to protect yourself and your family.
Symptoms of H1N1 are similar to that of a regular flu:
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
Most importantly, be conscious of how you feel. If you feel ill and/or experience flu-like symptoms – STAY HOME. Keep your distance from others and visit your doctor if necessary.
Everyone should follow these recommendations from Health Canada:
Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm/hot water. If soap & water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.Cover your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze – DO NOT USE YOUR HANDS. Use a tissue or your arm/sleeve.The current strain appears to be treatable with Tamiflu and Relenza – consult your doctor. Mild cases, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, do NOT require these treatments.
What are the World Health Organization (WHO) Pandemic Levels?
An influenza pandemic means the virus is spread easily between humans, and affects a wide geographic area. There are six phases in the WHO’s Pandemic Preparedness & Response:
- Phase 1: Influenza viruses are circulating in animals, especially birds. No reports of animal viruses infecting humans.
- Phase 2: Human infection by an animal influenza virus. Potential pandemic threat.
- Phase 3: An animal or animal-human influenza virus has caused limiteddisease in people. Isolated human to human transmission may occur –but not widespread.
- Phase 4: Verified human to human transmission of an animal or human-animalvirus causing widespread or “community-level” outbreaks. Risk of pandemic is considered much higher but not a foregone conclusion.
- Phase 5: Human to human spread of the virus is confirmed in at least two countries in one WHO region. It is likely that a pandemic is imminent. Time to finalize organization, communication, and implementation of planned mitigation strategies is short.
- Phase 6: The Pandemic Phase. Community outbreaks in at least one country from a second WHO region – indicating that a global pandemic is underway.
Workplace Pandemic Plan Checklist (visit www.whsc.on.ca for their full checklist)
Does your workplace have a pandemic influenza plan? If not, raise the issue at your next JHSC meeting or suggest that a meeting be held soon to address it. Below is a list of things to consider when creating your plan:
- Your goal should be to eliminate worker exposure to the virus by containing its spread in your workplace.
- Include the precautionary principle, as recommended in the SARS report, which (summarized) stated: “That action to reduce risk need not await scientific certainty.”
- Control through the usual hierarchy: At the Source, Along the Path and as a last resort At the Worker. Use engineering and administrative controls, work design/organization and personal protective equipment.
- Employers should ensure workers know how and are able to reduce transmission of the virus by providing proper training in consultation with the JHSC.
- Establish a communicationsplan to keep workers informed before, during and after the pandemic.
- If required, ensure provisions are made to stockpile personal protective equipment and other items. Ensure workers are trained properly on the use, care and removal of these items.
- Social distancing is important during a pandemic. Cancel large gatherings, reduce or eliminate travel and use teleconferencing instead of face to face meetings.
- Anyone advised to work from home should receive any proper equipment & training needed.
- For health care facilities develop procedures for limiting exposure such as limiting access to facility, screening all entrants, isolating patients with symptoms, use negative pressure rooms where appropriate and keep at least two metres away from symptomatic patients.
- Use test drills to find out where your plan has weak spots.
- Ensure employees are washing their hands frequently and thoroughly. Employers should provide access to hygiene products including hand sanitizer (min. 60% alcohol), soap, tissues, hot water and a wash station. Avoid anti-bacterial soaps as they can create resistant bacteria as well as have other effects on the human body.
- Ensure proper psychosocial support is available during and after the pandemic.
- Provide all workers with a list of ways to keep up to date on what’s going on and protect themselves during the pandemic.