HIV+ people on lookout for swine flu

Wash hands, stay aware says L.A. health director

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: April 28, 2009 in News

Individuals who are HIV-positive should be aware of swine flu and take the necessary precautions to avoid contracting a strain of the deadly virus, writes Frontiers In L.A. news editor Karen Ocamb at Bilerico.com.

The initial outbreak of the swine flu began in Mexico. It has since spread to isolated cases in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Spain and parts of Asia. In Mexico, 149 people have died. No deaths and only one hospitalization have been reported in the U.S.

People with already-compromised immune systems, such as those living with HIV, should be vigilant and take extra precautions, Ocamb says.

She spoke to Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, Director of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, who told her that HIV-positive people aren’t at a higher risk of contracting the flu, but there is a “greater concern about the severity of the disease.”

Kim-Farley added, “”We don’t want to be alarmist about it. To date, there are 40 confirmed cases in the US and they are all mild illnesses. The main thing is that if an individual comes back from Mexico with symptoms or has contact with someone who is ill, they should seek medical care. The medication Tamilfu, if given in the first 48 hours, reduces the severity of the disease.”

The symptoms of the flu are high fever, runny nose, lethargy, sore throat, nausea, coughing and diarrhea.

Kim-Farley said the best way to prevent transmission of the flu is to wash your hands frequently and to keep them away from your mouth and nose. He said if you aren’t feeling well, you should stay home. If your condition worsens, you should seek care.

“We are asking people to practice good health behaviors out of respect for your own health, as well as respect for the well-being of others,” he said.

The swine flu outbreak has not yet reached “pandemic” levels, according to the World Health Organization. Yesterday, WHO raised its pandemic alert level from three to four, meaning there is significant concern of human-to-human transmission among small communities. The alertness level of four does not mean that global pandemic is inevitable.