At least at this point, an outbreak of swine flu is far short of a global disaster, but how this situation is handled could provide some valuable insight and information for medical and government officials charged with dealing with such matters.
The incidence of swine flu in humans is of special interest to Kansans, because two of the 40 cases that had been confirmed by midday Monday were in Dickinson County. The Kansas couple were diagnosed with the disease after the man returned from a trip to Mexico, which is the center of the outbreak. Their cases are said to be mild, but they nonetheless have isolated themselves to prevent spread of the disease.
So far, handling of the matter by U.S. officials seems sound. They are monitoring the situation and have issued an advisory urging Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico. The Centers for Disease Control has released antiviral drugs and equipment to help states respond to the outbreak. Kansas officials said Monday they expected to receive flu-fighting drugs from the nation’s strategic stockpile within a few days.
Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting, the state’s adjutant general who is overseeing the Kansas response, also noted that dealing with a disease pandemic was one of the most common scenarios for the state’s response training exercises in recent years. The current outbreak is an opportunity to put some of that training to use and perhaps learn how the state and nation might improve their response to future situations involving dangerous diseases or even more sinister instances of biological sabotage or terrorism.
The CDC has issued some common-sense advice to help Americans prevent the flu from spreading: cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands frequently, avoid contact with sick people and limit contact with others if you get sick. With any luck, the current outbreak will be contained before more serious measures are called for.
It seems that U.S. involvement in the swine flu outbreak was caught early and that U.S. health officials are on top of the situation. Hopefully their handling of the outbreak will increase their own confidence as well as the confidence of the nation in their ability to meet even more serious challenges if and when they arise.