The outbreak of disease in people caused by a new influenza virus of swine origin continues to grow in the United States and internationally. Today, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports additional confirmed human infections, hospitalizations and the nation’s first fatality from this outbreak. The more recent illnesses and the reported death suggest that a pattern of more severe illness associated with this virus may be emerging in the United States. Most people will not have immunity to this new virus and, as it continues to spread, more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths are expected in the coming days and weeks.
CDC has implemented its emergency response. The agency’s goals are to reduce transmission and illness severity, and provide information to help health care providers, public health officials and the public address the challenges posed by the new virus. Yesterday, CDC issued new interim guidance for clinicians on how to care for children and pregnant women who may be infected with this virus. Young children and pregnant women are two groups of people who are at high risk of serious complications from seasonal influenza. In addition, CDC’s Division of the Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) continues to send antiviral drugs, personal protective equipment, and respiratory protection devices to all 50 states and U.S. territories to help them respond to the outbreak. The swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is susceptible to the prescription antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir. This is a rapidly evolving situation, and CDC will provide updated guidance and new information as it becomes available.
How your spa should handle the situation
According to industry experts Rebecca James Gadberry, chairman and co-CEO of YG Laboratories, and Terri Wojak, director of True University, the following steps should be taken by your spa to help make it as safe and sanitary as possible for clients and employees alike.
- Hand sanitizer. Place hand sanitizer in key areas throughout the spa, especially in the reception area, bathrooms and locker rooms. Provide all employees with pocket-sized hand sanitizers and encourage them to carry the sanitizer when they’re off-premises, too.
- Protective gear. Make sure all estheticians wear gloves and a medical-grade protective face mask throughout services. For the esthetician to see, the mask should lay flat over the mouth and nose rather than in a bubble shape. Do not touch anything else while wearing gloves, such as your face, nose and other surfaces. If it’s unavoidable, change gloves before continuing the service and properly disinfect any areas that were touched.
- Wipes. Wipe down frequently used doors, phones and communal key boards with sanitation wipes once an hour.
- Keep rooms clean. Thoroughly wash bowls, brushes and other implements with antibacterial soap and use a medical-grade disinfectant. Always change sheets, towels and bedding after each client.
- Keep products sanitary. Products need to be kept sanitized, as well. Dispense products into separate bowls before touching the client, or if you need to grab something else, again make sure you have on a fresh pair of gloves. Every product should also be wiped down with a disinfectant after every service.
- Cancellation policy. Suspend your cancellation policy until the pandemic has passed. Clients who feel ill may decide to come in rather than lose money because they cancelled an appointment.
- Do not treat ill clients. If a client shows signs of being ill, do not treat proceed with the treatment. It is better to be safe than sorry, and it is not fair to put providers, employees or other clients at risk for illness.
- Send employees home. Make your staff aware of the main symptoms of the H1N1 virus. These can be found further down in this article. If an employee feels ill at work or before she comes to work, allow her to stay home. This illness comes on suddenly, so make sure you have backup plans to replace employees who may call in sick or be sent home during their shift.
- Visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Web site. Not only can you keep up with the latest news about the virus, you can also download a variety of posters to help build awareness about how to protect against passing along the disease and being exposed to it.
The swine flu and you
The following information was provided by the CDC Web site.
What is swine flu?
Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses that causes regular outbreaks in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen. Swine flu viruses have been reported to spread from person-to-person, but in the past, this transmission was limited and not sustained beyond three people.
Is this swine flu virus contagious?
CDC has determined that this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is contagious and is spreading from human to human. However, at this time, it is not known how easily the virus spreads between people.
What are the signs and symptoms of swine flu in people?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. In the past, severe illness (pneumonia and respiratory failure) and deaths have been reported with swine flu infection in people. Like seasonal flu, swine flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
How does swine flu spread?
Spread of this swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.
How can someone with the flu infect someone else?
Infected people may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to seven or more days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
What should I do to keep from getting the flu?
First and most important: wash your hands. Try to stay in good general health. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food. Try not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the flu virus. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Are there medicines to treat swine flu?
Yes. CDC recommends the use of oseltamivir or zanamivir for the treatment and/or prevention of infection with these swine influenza viruses. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing in your body. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started soon after getting sick (within two days of symptoms).
How long can an infected person spread swine flu to others?
People with swine influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious as long as they are symptomatic and possible for up to seven days following illness onset. Children, especially younger children, might potentially be contagious for longer periods.
What surfaces are most likely to be sources of contamination?
Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his eyes, nose or mouth. Droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person move through the air. Germs can spread when a person touches respiratory droplets from another person on a surface such as a desk and then touches his own eyes, mouth or nose before washing his hands.
How long can viruses live outside the body?
We know that some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces such as cafeteria tables, doorknobs and desks. Frequent handwashing will help you reduce the chance of getting contamination from these common surfaces.
What can I do to protect myself from getting sick?
There is no vaccine available right now to protect against swine flu. There are everyday actions that can help prevent the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses like influenza. Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school, and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
What is the best way to keep from spreading the virus through coughing or sneezing?
If you are sick, limit your contact with other people as much as possible. Do not go to work or school if ill. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cover your cough or sneeze if you do not have a tissue. Then, clean your hands, and do so every time you cough or sneeze.
What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water. or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. The CDC recommends that when you wash your hands—with soap and warm water—that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. You can find them in most supermarkets and drugstores. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn’t need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.
What should I do if I get sick?
If you live in areas where swine influenza cases have been identified and become ill with influenzalike symptoms, including fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea, you may want to contact your health care provider, particularly if you are worried about your symptoms. Your health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed. If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others. If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care.
In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flulike symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
- Sudden dizziness
- Severe or persistent vomiting
How serious is swine flu infection?
Like seasonal flu, swine flu in humans can vary in severity from mild to severe. Between 2005 until January 2009, 12 human cases of swine flu were detected in the United States with no deaths occurring. However, swine flu infection can be serious. In September 1988, a previously healthy 32-year-old pregnant woman in Wisconsin was hospitalized for pneumonia after being infected with swine flu and died eight days later. A swine flu outbreak in Fort Dix, New Jersey, occurred in 1976 that caused more than 200 cases with serious illness in several people and one death.
Can I get swine influenza from eating or preparing pork?
No. Swine influenza viruses are not spread by food. You cannot get swine influenza from eating pork or pork products. Eating properly handled and cooked pork products is safe.
From the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov). Accessed April 30, 2009
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