Author's Note: My twin sister Jhilya, a microbiologist working in medical communications, writes today about some recent developments in the H1N1 pandemic. Still several weeks ahead of the expected seasonal flu peak, the Human-Avian-Swine H1N1 flu has already claimed 1,000 American lives and nearly 5,000 worldwide. Below, an update on recent developments and how to protect yourself.
This past weekend, President Obama declared the H1N1 flu outbreak to be a national emergency. But what exactly does that mean?
Declaring this particular flu situation as a national emergency means that the Department of Health and Human Services can use alternate strategies for identifying and treating patients who may need care (for example setting up alternate treatment sites and adjusting triage protocols to meet the needs of a community). It's somewhat similar to when an emergency is declared after a hurricane, tornado or other natural disaster.