No infection, no epidemic, be careful not to infect others should you be infected
(This information is prepared in October, 2011.)
*After early outbreaks in Mexico in April 2009, the new strain of influenza virus spread rapidly around the world. Many Gunma citizens were infected by the virus, but only a handful developed serious symptoms, and there were few deaths from the virus. As of March 31, 2011, however, the new strain of influenza virus is treated as one of the seasonal influenza viruses and was renamed the pandemic (H1N1) 2009.
*There is no reason to believe that outbreaks of the extremely toxic new influenza virus (H5N1) have ceased. The prefectural and municipal governments of Gunma, in cooperation with the local medical institutions, have been working to create medical and social systems that ensure the safety of the citizens of Gunma.
*The following information will help you understand more about the new strain of influenza and what you can do to prevent infection.
The New Strain of Influenza: What is it?
- The new strain of influenza virus is passed from person to person. Most people have little or no immunity to it, so it can spread very quickly if there is an outbreak.
- In recent years, there is a growing concern over outbreaks of influenza viruses that originated from highly virulent bird flu viruses. (To date, no such viruses have been confirmed in Japan; however, some South East Asian and African countries have reported laboratory confirmed infections from these viruses, causing many deaths.)
- Should there be an outbreak of a new strain of the influenza virus; the impact of widespread contamination will have a serious impact on our social and economic activities. In addition to hazards to individual health, it could also cripple the prefectural medical system as people rush to the hospitals for medical care. Schools and businesses will have to close. The national logistics system will come to a standstill.
(Excerpted from the Website of NIID, the National Institute of Infectious Diseases)
What can you do to prepare yourself for the new strain of influenza virus at home?
- Wash hands and gargle routinely in your household.
- Prior to an outbreak, stockpiling of daily necessities such as those mentioned below will help you get through the ordeal once there is an outbreak. They will help you in case of a disaster. As the old adage goes, "If you are prepared, you don't have to worry."
- Foodstuff (approx. two weeks' supply of rice, dried noodles, freeze-dried foods, canned foods, and bottled water)
- Medical supplies (masks, thermometers, antiseptic substances, and your own medications)
- Household consumer products (toilet paper, trash bags, plastic bags, and portable gas stoves)
- Be prepared by gathering information on what to do and which medical institution to go to once you are infected. [This information is available in the newsletter (koho) published by your local village/town/city hall.]
- Refrain from going out unless it is absolutely necessary.
What can businesses do to prepare for the new strain of influenza virus?
- Prior to an outbreak, in addition to stockpiling antiseptic substances for both employees and visitors, creating a response manual for an outbreak is recommended. The manual should address how to deal with a widespread infection in the workplace and cover items including how to deal with business partners; what to do in order to keep the business going; and what should employees do.
- After an outbreak, implement actions to contain the infection.
- Minimize the risk of spreading it further by cancelling scheduled meetings and events as necessary.
- Show an understanding to employees who are infected and are absent from work.
What can schools do to prepare for the new strain of influenza virus?
- As a preventive measure, train your students to make hand washing and gargling part of their daily routine, which will also help prevent other infectious diseases. Prior to an outbreak, stockpiling of antiseptic substances is recommended.
- Share among staff how to respond to a widespread infection, specifically the school policy on temporary closing and suspension of tests and school trips.
- Share among staff how to notify medical institutions and local hokenjo (health and welfare office).
- After an outbreak, make sure containment actions are implemented.
- The sooner an outbreak location is closed, the more effective it is to prevent widespread infections. Consult your local education board, school doctors, and hokenjo (health and welfare office), to make a timely decision to close the school.
Important points for preparing for an outbreak of the new strain of influenza virus:
- Check regularly for updated information on the new strain of influenza released by the national/prefectural/municipal government.
- It's important to prevent infection, but it is equally important to keeping the virus from spreading once you are infected. (Wear a mask and cover your mouth when you cough.)
- In order to avoid mass panic, confusion and unrest, individuals are asked to perform due diligence and act accordingly.
- Once there is an outbreak, the new strain of the influenza virus will spread via every possible route of infection, exposing all people to the risk of being infected without exception. Therefore, anyone who became infected should not be held accountable for their infection, and we should understand that. (Bullying or prejudice against those who are infected should be avoided. You are asked to exercise consideration toward them.)
- At the outset of an outbreak, in order to prevent a widespread infection, only the doctors at designated medical institutions will treat patients. If you think you have the new strain of influenza, first and foremost, be sure to call the prefectural New Strain Influenza Call Center (tentative name) before visiting a hospital/clinic to see a doctor. The call center operator will ask you some questions regarding your symptoms, and you will be informed of the names of medical institutions where you can go and see a doctor. The call center number will be announced via newspapers and the website of Gunma Prefecture immediately after there is an outbreak.
- As the number of patients surges and reaches a certain level, doctors at undesignated medical institutions will also treat patients. Even then, you have to call the hospital/clinic first before actually visiting there. Also, be sure to wear a mask when you visit.
*You should check newspapers and the website of Gunma Prefecture for the updated information on undesignated medical institutions but where you can go and see a doctor.
- If your symptoms are not severe, please refrain from visiting general hospitals or emergency hospitals, in order to allow for unhindered treatment of more critically-ill patients.
- The vaccine for the new strain of influenza can prevent complications and keep symptoms from becoming severe, but as vaccines are made from the virus itself, they are not available before a new strain outbreak.
- It takes about six months before a vaccine for a new strain of the influenza virus becomes available. The number of doses of the vaccine is limited at the outset, so those at high risk for complications (pregnant women, those over 65 years of age, children under 5, etc.) as well as medical professionals will be given precedence.
Contact (Consultation and inquiry in Japanese):
(027) 224-5300 Health and Prevention Section of Gunma Prefectural Government
List of Hokenjo (health and welfare office) in Gunma (Consultation and inquiry in Japanese)
Website for CDC(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S.)
(Effective November 2011)