Ukraine’s swine flu epidemic (A/H1N1 virus) – which has killed over 70 persons – has put Romanian authorities on alert, determining them to take extra measures at the border. Moreover, the epidemic has also reached Armenia (18 deaths), Georgia (3 deaths), Iran and India (dozens of deaths). Several cases have been confirmed in the Republic of Moldova too.
According to official data, 16 cases of seasonal flu (of the AH1N1 strain) have been confirmed in Bucharest. Doctors state that the number of cases is most likely higher, but lab results are pending for the other persons suspected of being infected. Adrian Streinu Cercel, Director of the ‘Matei Bals’ Infectious Disease Hospital, stated that “at this moment there are up to 20 cases registered and diagnosed, because not every flu case is investigated.”
“I would like to point out that we are not talking about the pandemic virus of 2009, but about a seasonal flu virus. Those who got flu shots have no kind of problem, those who didn’t are obviously exposed to risk,” Streinu-Cercel stated on Antena 3.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is sounding the alarm because of the wide geographic area in which various centres of contagion have been registered, but also of the age of those most affected, namely the 25-45 age group, considered the most active age group.
In 2009/2010, the flu transmitted by this kind of virus turned into a pandemic, causing around 18,500 deaths worldwide. 82 persons died in Romania, out of the almost 6,000 infected.
The virus is airborne
The A/H1N1 virus is a new subtype of flu virus transmissible to humans, and which contains genes from swine flu, avian flu and human flu.
The swine flu caused by this virus is an extremely contagious acute respiratory illness that affects pigs, caused by one of the numerous type A flu viruses.
This airborne virus is transmitted to pigs through direct and indirect contact, and by asymptomatic carriers too. The same is valid in the case of humans too.
The A/H1N1 virus is not transmissible through pork or pork products that have been properly cooked, it is transmissible solely through the air or through direct contact with infected persons or with objects contaminated by infected persons’ oropharyngeal secretions. Thus, it can be said that the risk of getting the infection are identical to those of getting a regular flu. Persons who suffer from cardiac and pulmonary illnesses are most affected.
After contamination, the person infected will be particularly contagious over a period of eight days. The virus can be transmitted through coughing, sneezing and by touching objects used by infected person.
Swine flu’s symptoms are similar to those of regular flu. They include coughing, fever, sore throat, muscle pain, headaches and lethargy. Precisely because it is similar to other illnesses, the persons concerned should contact their doctors as soon as possible in order to undergo specific tests. On their way to the doctor’s office, they should use facemasks in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
The efficiency of medication used to treat swine flu is maximal if it is administered within 48 hours since the onset of the first symptoms.
Current vaccine offers immunity against A/H1N1 virus
Flu shots are recommended for the prevention of contamination. Flu shots offer immunity against the A/H1N1 virus, according to Prof. Dr. Alexandru Rafila, President of the Romanian Society of Microbiology. According to him, the vaccine contains precisely the anti-genes needed to prevent infection with the A/H1N1 virus. Likewise, hygiene measures are very important.
According to the ‘Matei Bals’ National Institute for Infectious Disease, the nose and mouth should be covered with a personal handkerchief at all times when coughing or sneezing, and the handkerchiefs or napkins should not be shared. Moreover, hands should not be used to touch one’s eyes, nose or mouth unless they have been washed with water and soap. Large crowds should be avoided as much as possible, as well as close contact with persons that show obvious clinical signs of acute respiratory illnesses (such as fever, coughing, sneezing, watery eyes). Hands should be washed regularly with water and soap, particularly after coughing or sneezing, and anti-microbial gels should be used to clean the fingers.
In case of exposure to a person infected with swine flu, those exposed should go see their doctors for prevention purposes.
Last but not least, immunity should be boosted with vitamins, healthy diet, physical exercises and sufficient rest.
Alexandru Rafila: Zika virus not a threat in Romania at the moment
The mosquito-borne Zika virus does not pose any threat in Romania, but those traveling to Central and South America could be exposed to it, President of the Romanian Microbiology Association Alexandru Rafila stated.
The statement comes at a time when the World Health Organization (WHO) estimated on Monday that the spread of the Zika virus, transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, represents “a global public health emergency”, as it can be linked to the increase in the number of new-borns with birth defects registered of late in Brazil.
“At the moment, there is no danger for Romania. The only issue can be connected to those traveling in the areas affected in Central and South America, as far as that the infection can be transmitted by mosquitoes and the problem is with women who are pregnant because there is a high likelihood that the infection will be associated with the occurrence of birth defects. In the case of those traveling special measures are not necessary, they only need to be aware that most of those infected do not know they are sick,” Rafila explained.
According to him, approximately 80pct of the cases do not experience symptoms and the remaining 20pct experience fever, joint aches and conjunctivitis.
“Of course they must visit their family doctor, the infectious diseases specialist, if there is a link between the trip and the occurrence of this infection. The infection can occur within a period of maximum two-three weeks after the trip, certainly then it can be diagnosed and prevention measures are connected to a certain category of risk, namely pregnant women,” Rafila stated.