This story has been updated. For more current information, see:
May 28, 2009: AH1N1 (Swine Flu) in Chile Part 4
For earlier versions, see
April 29, 2009: Swine Flu in Chile Part 2: Update on Chile
April 28, 2009: Swine Flu in Chile Part 1: So far, so good
For a Related Post, see:
May 29, 2009: AH1N1 in Chile, a Scientist’s Perspective
Swine Flu in Chile Update Part 3
It was bound to happen. Chile is now among the world’s 41 countries with confirmed and reported cases of Swine Flu—excuse me—the Flu Once Known as Swine and Now Called Novel Human Influenza A (H1N1) (such an annoyingly long and fumbly name—I must admit, I much preferred the porcine moniker).
Despite the best of intentions, one of the outcomes of globalization, of living in this fast-paced jet-lagged world is that not only ideas, experiences, and consumer goods—but diseases as well—are transported much faster and much farther than ever before.
29 cases of A (H1N1) in Chile
Chile now has its first confirmed cases of the dreaded flu, all concentrated in the Metropolitan, Valparaíso, and O’Higgins Regions.
The first 2 cases were identified on May 17 when 2 women who returned from the Dominican Republic on the same flight presented symptoms. That number has since risen to 29. No related deaths have been reported.
Chile uses a special thermal imaging scanner to monitor all passengers entering the Arturo merino Benítez Airport in Santiago and identify anyone who may have a fever at the time of entering the country. According to the Ministry of Public Health, as of Thursday, May 21, some 39,600 people—passengers and crew—had been checked.
Much of the initial panic surrounding the virus has waned as more is learned about what it is and how it spreads. A (H1N1) appears to spread in the same manner as regular seasonal flu: through the coughs and sneezes of those who are infected. The symptoms are similar, but since it is a new strain, no vaccination is yet available for it and the general population has no natural immunity to it, so more people may fall ill.
The usual recommendations and health precautions still apply:
- Wash your hands with soap and/or alcohol gel.
- Avoid enclosed places and those with a high flow of people (what to do about planes? Subways? Rush hour buses? Easier said than done in an overcrowded city! See the Metro Crush)
- Use disposable tissues and throw them away
- Be aware of any health updates
Chile is currently in the midst of its annual early-winter flu season, and many people are affected by the usual run-of-the-mill cold symptoms (sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, cough) and flu ailments (headache, body ache, chills, fever, fatigue). The new virus may present all of these as well as possible diarrhea and vomiting.
The Center for Disease Control recommends seeking immediate medical attention should any of the following symptoms appear:
- Fast or difficult breathing
- Bluish or gray skin
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
If you are in Chile and suspect that you or someone close to you is sick, call
SALUD RESPONDE: 600 360-7777 before going to a health center.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) 11,034 cases of
A (H1N1) had been officially reported in 41 countries, including 85 deaths as of the evening of May 21, 2009.
The majority of the cases have been identified in the following countries:
United States: 5,710 cases, 8 deaths
Mexico: 3,892 cases, 75 deaths
Canada: 719 cases, 1 death
Japan: 259 cases
Spain: 111 cases
United Kingdom: 109 cases
Costa Rica: 20 cases, 1 death
France: 16 cases
Germany: 14 cases
Colombia: 12 cases
Out of curiosity, I wonder why Chile’s 29 cases weren’t mentioned? What other countries were left off this list?
For More Information:
– Chilean Health Ministry: www.minsal.cl; www.pandemia.cl
– World Health Organization: www.who.int
– Center for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/
– Chilean Epidemiological Society: http://www.sociedad-iih.cl/
**See what Leigh, at Crooked Compass, wrote about her experience in the airport**