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Message from the Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer:
H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu) Update, May 1, 2009

The number of cases of swine influenza (H1N1) continues to rise around the globe at a modest rate. On April 29, 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised the pandemic threat to Level 5 indicating an increased likelihood of a pandemic. The number of confirmed cases in the United States as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of May 1, 2009 is 141 in 19 states with one death in Texas. The WHO reported 331 confirmed cases in 11 countries as of today.

As the outbreak progresses, the following facts and features have become evident:

1. The outbreak continues to cause relatively mild illness for the most part in the United States, and appears to be very much like a seasonal flu outbreak with regard to severity and spread.

2. The U.S. government has mobilized numerous resources not previously available to respond to flu outbreaks. This should limit the overall impact, compared to past experience.

3. The Department of State and the Department of Health and Human Services recommend avoiding non-essential travel to Mexico. There are no other travel related recommendations at this time. There are no recommendations to restrict or avoid public transportation, including airline travel.

4. The World Health Organization has characterized the outbreak based on spread, not severity. Currently, the WHO Pandemic Alert level remains at 5; however, this may change if person-to-person spread is confirmed outside of North America. Again, this does not relate to the severity of the illness caused by the epidemic.

5. The Department of Health and Human Services, which has the lead for U.S. government pandemic response, has not issued any policies to drive any additional NASA activities.

6. There have been multiple deaths in Mexico related to H1N1 infection, and there have been many more hospitalizations there as well. The number of infected individuals in Mexico is unknown. As the number of hospitalizations increases worldwide, the expected number of deaths can be expected to increase, as would be seen in any outbreak of influenza.

7. Personal protective measures remain the best prevention for this illness. Strict attention to hand washing, avoiding contact with those who are ill (staying 3 to 6 feet away should be adequate), remaining home if ill, keeping your hands away from your nose and mouth, covering coughs and sneezes and disposing of contaminated tissues are all useful measures.

8. If you believe you are sick with flu, contact your personal medical care provider.

NASA┬╣s facilities continue to follow the recommendations of federal, state and local health officials in dealing with this flu emergency. Not every state with a NASA facility has been affected by the flu outbreak, so actions to reduce public exposure vary from community to community. As of this writing, only one NASA sponsored event has been canceled, and only one field center closed its day care center and permitted liberal leave on April 30 and May 1.

The Glenn Research Center canceled a star gazing party planned for this weekend at the request of the sponsoring planetarium, and the Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) decided to allow its employees liberal leave and closed its day care center, when the local school system decided to close its schools for two days. MSFC will re-evaluate the situation on Sunday.

The following events are still planned: The Jet Propulsion Laboratory's open house this weekend, and Wallops Flight Facility's launch of the TacSat-3 mission on Tuesday night, May 5. The flu epidemic has not affected the upcoming launch of STS-125. The crew will begin their standard pre-launch quarantine, which is a precaution against infectious disease, on Monday, May 4.

The health and welfare of our government and contractor employees and their families remain our major concern and highest priority. Please feel free to call your NASA Occupational Health Clinic or the Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer at NASA Headquarters at 202-358-2390 with any questions related to the H1N1 outbreak. The following Web sites can also be consulted for more information:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu

The World Health Organization: http://www.who.int/en

NASA Occupational Health Web site: http://ohp.nasa.gov

 

Occupational Health Program Manager:
Christopher Warren, 358-1751




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