Yesterday I was speaking with a flight attendant about the current outbreak of Swine Flu (H1N1). "The news is so scary, I don't know what to think," she said. "Should I be afraid to go to work or not?"
"No," I told her. "You needn't be afraid to go to work, but you should learn the facts about the disease, and understand what to do to lessen your chances of becoming infected."
It does seem like the swine flu outbreak came out of nowhere and just exploded onto the scene. There are so many rumors circulating, it's no wonder people are scared. The news media jumped on the story quickly, and although they have reported some factual information, they also have fanned the flames of fear -- sometimes by their choice of words, and sometimes by feeding the rumor mill instead of sticking to known facts.
Don't panic. Mixed in among the mass of rumor and hype, there is some good, solid, reliable information -- you just have to know where to look for it.
Here are some good places to start. (Each of these items will open in a new page or tab when you click.)
Background information about Swine Flu (H1N1)
- Key Facts about Swine Influenza - U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC).
- Swine Influenza (Flu) - CDC, Daily updates
- Swine influenza - World Health Organization (WHO), updated regularly
- PandemicFlu.gov - The official U.S. government Web site for information on pandemic flu (including swine flu)
- Swine Flu: What flight attendants need to know - AFA-CWA, April 2009
- Interim Guidance to Assist Airline Flight Deck and Cabin Crew in Identifying Passengers Who May Have Swine Influenza - CDC, April 2009
- Interim Guidance for Airlines Regarding Flight Crews Arriving from Domestic and International Areas Affected by Swine Influenza - CDC, April 2009
- Safety Alert for Operators (SAFO): Swine Flu H1N1 Information - FAA, April 2009 [PDF format]
- PandemicFlu.gov - Section on Travel & Transportation - U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services
- Frequently asked questions – Swine Influenza and Air Travel - IATA, April 2009 [PDF format]
- Suspected Communicable Diease: Guidelines for Cabin Crew - IATA, December 2008 [PDF format]
If you are on Twitter, you can keep abreast of new developments by following @CDCemergency. You can also follow the AircrewHealth.com health news Twitter feed @Twellness. No rumors. No hype. Just facts and links to news you need to know in order to make informed health decisions for yourself and those you care about.
UPDATE May 1, 2009: Here is something useful. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published a document listing 500 Antimicrobial Products Registered for Use Against Influenza A Virus on Hard Surfaces (17-page PDF).
These include disinfectant solutions and foams, as well as single-use wipes. You might want to check it out and see if the ones you use on aircraft, and pack with you to use on your layovers, are on the list. There is a page on the EPA website that explains.