With swine flu spreading throughout the world and surrounded by media hype, some expats must wonder how they should deal with the ramifications of this epidemic sensibly. Cases are being reported in our children's schools and it is becoming clear that we will all likely have to deal with the uncertainty that surrounds being exposed to this virus. As expats, we wonder if we should cancel or postpone travel plans and how it might even affect immigration plans, as if this process wasn't stressful enough. Those who are vulnerable must cope with an even greater degree of uncertainty.
What are the symptoms?
It could be slightly confusing being an expat in the UK as to the exact symptoms of swine flu, as the British refer to cold symptoms as flu. Some people might understand flu symptoms to be nausea or vomiting as I did. So are the symptoms cold-like or stomach flu-like? And how about that leaflet that never arrived in the post to explain what we should do?
The World Health Organization describes the symptoms:"Typical symptoms to watch for are similar to seasonal viruses and include fever, cough, headache, body aches, sore throat and runny nose. Only your medical practitioner and local health authority can confirm a case of influenza A(H1N1)."
At an expat awareness seminar in Saudi Arabia, "one doctor explained that swine flu symptoms can include fever (which is usually high, but unlike seasonal flu, is sometimes absent), cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue or tiredness (which can be extreme)".
"Diarrhea and vomiting are sometimes seen and are more common than with seasonal flu.Signs of a more serious swine flu infection may include pneumonia and respiratory failure."
You can keep up to date with NHS alerts, information and use a symptom wizard here:NHS Swine Flu Alert. This wizard has a Request Call Back service if you are worried about unclear symptoms.
If you are concerned, phone your GP. If you have not yet registered with a local GP, you should make time to do so. Find your local NHS services here.
What should we be doing?
Remind everyone in your household to practice good hygiene, especially children. Be sure to discuss the issues with your children, they will hear things and might be frightened of going to school and catching the virus because they hear that people have died.
We might also recommend a common sense approach that people take additional care in visiting with those who are vulnerable to prevent spreading the virus to them. The virus is transfered via contact and lives for up to 2 hours on objects and people carry the virus for several days before they show symptoms.
The British Foreign Office provides Travel advice for UK residents.
Stock up on paracetemol based pain relievers just in case.
If you have symptoms
The US Embassy asks that people with appointments at the Embassies reschedule their appointments if they are experiencing flu symptoms.
People are advised by most government agencies not to travel if they are ill. International travel is subject to health screening at ports of entry in some countries, with possible quarantine, please check before traveling.
Normal body temperature is 36C-37C (96.8F-98.6F).
It's normal to have a high temperature if you have an infection like cold or flu. Your temperature could rise to 40C (104F) but you have a high temperature if it goes above 38C (100.4F).
Contact your GP, get rest and drink fluids.
"A person should seek medical care if they experience shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, or if a fever continues more than three days. For parents with a young child who is ill, seek medical care if a child has fast or labored breathing, continuing fever or convulsions (seizures)."