Top Black Doctors Tell How to Avoid Swine Flu

Hazel Trice Edney | 4/29/2009, 4:46 p.m.

The Obama Administration has declared a public health emergency in the U. S. in response to an outbreak of a swine flu virus that has reportedly killed as many as 103 people in New Mexico and caused at least 20 non-deadly influenza cases in the U. S.

President Obama has said while the country is in a constant state of alert, there is no cause for alarm.

Meanwhile, two top African-American medical experts, interviewed by the NNPA News Service, are reiterating key ways to avoid getting this strand of the flu, given the disparate impacts and outcomes that medical conditions often have in Black communities.

€African-Americans should be indeed concerned about this, but there are a number of things that they can do and should do to decrease the likelihood of developing this infection,€ says Dr. Louis Sullivan, a former secretary of Health and Human Services and founder of the Morehouse School of Medicine.

€It seems to be a very aggressive type of virus so the main thing is to avoid it,€ said Dr. Rubens J. Pamies, chair of the congressional advisory committee for the U. S. Office of Minority Health and a vice chancellor at the University of Nebraska Medical center.

€African-Americans are not genetically predisposed to getting viruses quicker,€ Pamies said.

But, he stressed that socioeconomic and pre-existing medical conditions can exacerbate the spread or affect of the virus in the Black community. Lack of health care plans, lower quality health care and resistance to seeing a doctor quickly have also caused disparate illness in Black communities, experts have said.

€My thinking on any viral syndrome is that the best approach is to avoid contracting it,€ Pamies said.

While fear of the virus has all but shut down Mexico City where millions of people are staying home or wearing masks, the Obama Administration, including representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Homeland Security, held a special press briefing on Sunday with hopes to thoroughly educate on what€s being done to stop the spread of the virus, which has shown up in at least five states in the U. S. At NNPA deadline Monday, they included eight cases confirmed in New York City, one case in Ohio, two cases in Kansas, two in Texas, and seven in California. No one has died from the flu in the U. S.

€Both the U.S. and Mexican governments are taking steps to reduce the potential for further transmission. Our goal is simple: to communicate information quickly and clearly for our citizens, to rapidly address any new cases that emerge, and to have the capacity to effectively limit the spread,€ said John Brennan, assistant to President Obama for Homeland Security and counterterrorism, speaking to reporters in the White House Press Room. €At this point a top priority is to ensure that communication is robust and that medical surveillance efforts are fully activated. This will enable both the rapid identification and broad notification of any new cases that may occur in the U.S., as well as in Mexico.€

Obama Administration officials said Sunday that the flu strain most likely developed naturally. However, surveillance from the Department of Homeland Security is monitoring the situation as well as conducting surveillance to ward against bioterrorism.

Sullivan and Pamies gave the following instructions on how to help avoid catching the swine flu:
€ Avoid large crowds to the greatest degree possible, since a lot of the spread comes from the close contact.
€ Get plenty of rest to build up resistance to illness.
€ Practice good nutrition.
€ Avoid contact with people who may have symptoms of flu or cold.
€ Wash hands or using hand sanitizers frequently before eating or contact with mouth or nose.
€ Avoid going to areas where the outbreaks have occurred.
€ Beware of people coughing and sneezing around you and avoid unnecessary close contact.
€ Go to a doctor quickly if symptoms arise.

Symptoms are similar to €garden variety flu-like symptoms only more severe€, says Pamies. €They include a fever, but slightly higher, 101.5 or greater, more muscle aches, more coughing; then I would immediately seek help.€

He added that if someone already has underlying chronic conditions like €diabetes, chronic obstructive lung disease, asthma, heart conditions and so on that predisposes you to having worse outcomes, I would be doubly careful about going to areas that are at high risk and [affected] areas.€