WASHINGTON – The Pan American Health Organization Friday instructed people around the world not to let their guard down against the outbreak of the swine flu.
“Let's remain focused on being as prepared as possible,” Jon Andrus,chief of the agency's immunization unit,told member nations on a worldwide conference call from PAHO headquarters.
The H1N1 virus – commonly referred to as “swine flu” – has been confirmed in about 7,500 cases in the Americas and caused the deaths of nearly 70 people.
Andrus said the numbers show a need for communities to continue monitoring cases. He said that,although media coverage of the virus has declined,the virus is still spreading and causing closings of schools and businesses in affected areas.
In New York,for example,Commissioner of Health Thomas Frieden and Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided Friday to close three schools in Queens for at least five days because “high levels” of students showed flu-like symptoms. On Thursday President Obama nominated Frieden to head up the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Andrus encouraged individuals,families and communities to continue to protect themselves from the rapidly spreading virus. He said the most effective time to take an anti-viral is within 48 hours after the symptoms become apparent,but a person infected with the virus may remain contagious to others even after receiving anti-viral treatment.
“To be on the safe side,stay home from work or school until you feel completely recovered,” Andrus said.
Although the World Health Organization has identified more than 20 vaccine manufacturers that have committed to produce a vaccine,PAHO doesn't expect a vaccination program to be ready for four to six months.
“We need to remain on high alert,” Andrus said.