Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine flu

Well, it's on every television channel, every radio station and all over the net. I received an e-mail today that I'd like to share with you ... ...

Frequently Asked Questions on Swine Flu Answers provided by an official at St. Luke's Episcopal Health System

Q: If I am healthy, do I need to worry about Swine Flu?
A: No, unless you will be traveling to Mexico. If you are healthy and you are in the United States, you do not need to worry. Just exercise caution by washing your hands frequently.

Q: What symptoms should I look for?
A: The main one is a fever. If you don’t have a fever, then you probably don’t have the flu. Other symptoms are severe body aches, chills, cough, runny nose, nasal congestion, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.

Q: Who is the most vulnerable to contracting this virus?
A: People who already have chronic problems, such as diabetes, cancer or other health problems that might weaken your immune system, may have a more severe case if they contract this virus.

Q: What if my friends/family/co-workers are sick?
A: Try to maintain distance between you and someone who is coughing or sneezing. Recommend to your co-workers and/or family members to stay home if they are not feeling well.

Q: Can I get Swine Flu from handling or eating pork or produce from Mexico?
A: No, it cannot be transmitted through food or food handling. It is communicated through direct contact with secretions from an infected person, which means someone coughing or sneezing on you.

Q: Will the flu shot I received in the fall help keep me from contracting Swine Flu?
A: Unfortunately, the information we have received suggests we should not count on it, because the strains in the vaccine are not the same as the Swine Flu strain.

Q: If I’m planning to travel to Mexico, should I get Tamiflu before going?
A: Following recommendations from our federal government, any travel to Mexico should be suspended unless there is a compelling reason to go. I think it’s just better to be on the safe side. If you do have to go and if you have underlying medical problems, then you’re at high risk and probably should be put on Tamiflu. Otherwise, simply take precautions by avoiding crowds and people who are sick.

Q: Is the United States prepared to handle a Swine Flu outbreak?
A: We are very prepared. The level of preparedness today is better than ever. We do drills for this. Our city, state and federal governments are all working together to be well prepared.

For more information on Swine Flu and government advisories, visit the following Web sites:

The City of Houston:

Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services:

The State Health Department (providing information about Texas' situation and response):

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

The World Health Organization:

Both the above and this next were sent out today ... ...

An Open Letter to All SLEH Employees

April 29, 2009

Today, I am writing to update you about the swine flu and to announce that I am going to be holding some live blogs, available to all employees, to answer your swine flu questions. The times for these live blogs will be posted on the Source.

First of all, let me commend all of you for your continued dedication and professionalism. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital is a tremendous asset to this community and time after time, whether it is flooding, a hurricane, the financial markets collapse, or now a swine flu epidemic, the people of Houston look to us to be there for them and to continue to provide the high quality and compassionate care for which we are known.

I also want you to know that while there is certainly reason to be cautious, there is no reason to be scared or panicked. St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital, the other TMC hospitals, the city, the state, and the federal government have been planning and training for a flu pandemic for years now. We have well thought out plans and we have plenty of supplies, including antiviral agents, to deal with this current outbreak.

As of the time of my writing, there are 91 confirmed cases of swine flu in the United States. Sixteen of those cases are in Texas. There is only one confirmed case in Houston and that patient, a 23 month old child has died and this is the only death from swine flu in the US. It is important to note that this child lived in Mexico, contracted the illness there and then was transferred to a US hospital. I mention this because, so far, the cases of swine flu that have occurred in the US appear to be much milder than those reported in Mexico. We don’t yet know why this is the case. At this time, we are not seeing unusual volumes of patients in our Emergency Department or Community Emergency Centers and that is also the case for all of the TMC hospitals except Texas Children’s Hospital and the Harris County Hospital District hospitals. We have only seen two cases suspicious for swine flu in our hospital facilities and those patients were not sick enough to warrant hospitalization.

The following are the precautions we are taking. First, I want to encourage all of you to do what you already should be doing - wash your hands (or use the hand gel) frequently, and especially each time before and after you care for a patient. To assist our visitors, we are installing hand gel dispensers in each public elevator lobby.

Second, if you are ill and have fever, communicate with your manager and stay home. If your child is ill, do not send your child to school or child care. Be sure to see your physician right away and do not use the emergency room unless you or your child is too ill to go to the doctor’s office.

For those of you who work in the Emergency Department or the Community Emergency Centers, we are trying to identify patients who have flu-like symptoms at triage, place a mask on them and isolate them. If they can be discharged, we are sending these patients home to recover. If we do end up with a patient so ill as to require hospitalization, we will place them in droplet and contact isolation.

For any of our employees returning from Mexico, we are requiring symptom and temperature screening in Occupational Health before they report to their department or unit for work. This will occur every day until a week after their return from Mexico. Anyone with a fever will be tested for influenza and sent home to follow-up with their physician.

There are a number of reasons to be optimistic about this flu outbreak. That is not to say that I don’t expect many more cases of swine flu before it is over, but the fact that the disease we have seen in the US has been much milder than what Mexico has experienced is a positive sign and the fact that this is occurring so late in the flu season suggests that this will be much less severe than had it occurred in the typical winter months.

Swine flu will be a risk for the next upcoming flu season this fall. By that time, the flu vaccine should contain the necessary protection for the swine flu. I want to encourage every employee who does not otherwise have a contraindication, to get the flu shot this fall. It will be offered to all employees free of charge.

In the meantime, please watch for updated information on the Source, including the Frequently Asked Questions already available and posted.

I encourage you to write in any questions you may have on our live blog. We will get that schedule out to you soon. Check the Source for all the latest details and information.

Thank you for all you do for St. Luke’s and our patients.


David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.
Chief Executive Officer

St. Luke's Episcopal is located in what we in Houston term "The Medical Center". It is prestigious. I don't know what some of you might be hearing, seeing or reading about in the news, but above are the facts. Our governor has announced a state of emergency in his panic and some schools are closing. I have not been ill, do not feel like I'm getting ill, but have no plans to travel to Mexico or expose myself to crowds unnecessarily, either. Normal precautions ... well, maybe a little more than normal because this disease is just beginning to make its presence felt in our area.

I know it's been several days since I last posted, and thought I'd better get one out there before you all start worrying. Just real busy. I'll tell you about what's been going on soon. Take care, and I'll talk atcha later!


whalechaser said...

Glad that you are ok...I noticed that you were abnormally quiet and wondered. thanks a bunch for this H1N1 information; it is a lot more 'sane' than most of the other stuff I have been hearing. Must have taken you a long time to enter all this information, thanks again.

Goldenrod said...

Just the old cut and paste, Whale. Took no time at all, actually. Good to hear from you, btw!

PS. We're no longer behind on rainfall.

Goldenrod said...

Oh! Forgot to add ... that second memo was an internal one and wasn't really intended for public consumption.

Tammy said...

I was hoping we'd hear from you on your blog as've been pretty quiet here lately.

A little common sense would help prevent panic...but alas, not everyone in our country has his/her fair share of common sense.

Craig Peihopa said...

good post Goldenrod, great to know you are back on...and a big congratulations!!!! You know what for, for ALL your posts are great, am very proud for you.

Tammy common sense is the most expensive thing in the world I believe because so few people can afford to be in possession of it, and it is not so common after all!

Goldenrod said...

Craig, someone (moi?) really needs to start chronicling your original statements/phrases/comments for inclusion in a future book. I'm being serious here!

This latest one ... ... "Common sense is the most expensive thing in the world, I believe, because so few people can afford to be in possession of it. It is not so common, after all."

Where do you GET this stuff, Craig? Brilliance! Pure and utter brilliance!!

Craig Peihopa said...

Aww shucks, be careful I might get a big head or something! Thanks But isn't it true!