World Health Organization Declares Flu Pandemic
Alegent Health Physician Offers Advice

Release Date: 06/11/2009
Media Contact: Jodi Hoatson
(402) 343-4514

    ... Print    RSS

There is no reason to panic – just follow simple precautions”

OMAHA, Neb. – As the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, continues to spread around the globe, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the first flu pandemic in 41 years.

The WHO has reported that the virus has infected nearly 29,000 people in 74 countries and caused more than 140 deaths worldwide. Most of the cases have been in North America, but Europe and Australia have seen an increase in cases in the past week.

Richard Starlin, M.D., Chief of Infectious Disease at Alegent Health, has been studying the WHO reports since the outbreak began.

“According to the WHO, they continue to see ongoing reports of infection around the world, but the increases in the Southern Hemisphere concern them,” said Starlin. “The thing to keep in mind is that this doesn’t assess the severity of the illness in terms of how sick people are, but is only an indication of how widespread it is and that there is community transmission in multiple areas of the world.”

The designation change by the WHO doesn’t change the basics. Starlin says in terms of the virus itself, “they are seeing relatively the same strain they were several weeks ago. That is relatively good news – it means that the antiviral drugs, like TamiFlu, are still an effective treatment for H1N1.”

Starlin says there is no reason to panic. “This is controllable. You can prevent transmission by washing their hands, coughing into tissues or your sleeve and cleaning work and play surfaces,” he said.

He also noted that people who have seasonal allergies may think they have H1N1, but there is one key difference. “The symptoms of seasonal allergies are similar to the symptoms of the virus: sore throat, coughing, sneezing and runny nose,” Starlin said. “But the key difference will be your temperature. Seasonal allergies do not cause a fever to develop. When you, or someone in your family starts running a fever, you should stay home and contact your primary care physician.”

Other flu facts:

  • Swine flu spreads from person to person by:
    • Coughing or sneezing on or around someone
    • Touching something with the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth or nose
  • Symptoms can take seven days to develop after exposure - however you can start spreading the virus a full day before those symptoms appear
  • This H1N1 strain is not covered by last fall's flu shots
  • Once symptoms develop you should stay home and avoid close contact with others
If you begin to feel ill with swine flu type symptoms, you are encouraged to see your physician. If you do not have a doctor or their office is closed, you can go to any Alegent Health Quick Care, located in the Omaha metro area. Highly-qualified physicians can test you or your children for the virus and provide a prescription for medications to help you recover.

About Alegent Health

Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with 10 hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,300 physicians on its medical staff and 9,000 employees. Alegent Health is ranked first in the country in quality and patient satisfaction according to the Network for Regional healthcare Improvement (NRHI). That exceptional commitment to providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person keeps Alegent Health faithful to its Mission, which was inspired by its sponsors, Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems. At Alegent Health, patients and their families find a continuum of care, from women's and children's services, primary care, wellness counseling, and senior care to cardiovascular services, orthopaedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation and behavioral health. Alegent Health is online at .