Internationally Renowned Infectious Disease Expert Discusses Swine Flu
Sathya Achia Abraham
University Public Affairs
Richard P. Wenzel, M.D., internationally known expert on infectious disease, says that a federal declaration of a health emergency is a standard procedure that frees up resources and gets health care professionals focused to fight an infectious disease like swine flu.
Wenzel, chair of internal medicine at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and past-president of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, also says it’s likely that more cases of swine flu will surface across the United States, and that is to be expected.
“It’s absolutely important that the feds have called this a public health emergency, because what this does is heighten our scenario playing and improve communications,” he said. “Our level of preparedness should go up so that we can say, ‘If this happens then this is what our response will be.’ And we have everything going in terms of hotlines established, communications across public health authorities, drugs, masks, all the supplies, including laboratory availability.”
Health officials around the world are investigating what appears to be a spreading swine flu outbreak. At least 18 swine flu deaths have been reported in Mexico, with another 100 thought to be from the virus. To date, the swine flu cases reported in the United States have been mild, with no deaths attributed to it, but cases are being reported in multiple states.
“I think so far there has been a limited number of cases in the United States, and what I would say is that there will be increased testing of people with fever plus respiratory symptoms,” he said. “We should know with our available rapid screens whether we’re seeing more cases. Nevertheless, it is important to use common sense, always wash hands, protect yourself from people who have respiratory illness and fever, and be alert to what’s happening in your own region.”
Wenzel also said that young adults appear to be the most at risk with this strain of the virus.
Wenzel is the author of “Stalking Microbes: A Relentless Pursuit of Infection Control.” He is the first editor-at-large of the New England Journal of Medicine and was among the leading commentators on the SARS outbreak. He was at the forefront of the national debate on smallpox vaccination.
About Richard Wenzel
Richard P. Wenzel, M.D., chair of internal medicine at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and past-president of the International Society for Infectious Diseases, is an internationally known expert on infectious diseases. Wenzel is the author of “Stalking Microbes: A Relentless Pursuit of Infection Control,” and is the first editor-at-large of the New England Journal of Medicine. His research focuses on the epidemiology of hospital-acquired infections and clinical trials of antisepsis scrub agents to treat or prevent infections caused by antibiotic resistant pathogens. He is the editor of five textbooks and 450 scientific articles and has received several awards for research and teaching.
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