Preventing Swine Flu And Disease Spread Is Up To Everyone

Kathleen Blanchard's picture

A new report from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine suggests it is everyone’s responsibility to help prevent the spread of swine flu, the common cold, skin diseases, avian flu, and diarrheal illness. Swine flu has not been as severe as believed, but other viral mutations may be just around the corner, and drug resistant infections are emerging. Preventing the spread of disease through good hygiene and family education is a strategy that deserves emphasis according to the study authors.

A recent report from the CDC shows that health care workers neglected to wear gloves and practice routine protection around patients potentially infected with the swine flu. Eighty health care workers have been diagnosed with swine flu. Twenty-six cases have been closely investigated. The CDC report targeted 13 nurses infected since the swine flu outbreak, finding that only half wore gloves or used routine protection. Even health care workers are not doing enough to identify patients with swine flu and protect themselves.

One of the authors of the current study, Professor Sally Bloomfield of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine says, “Although antibiotics and vaccines have given us unprecedented ability to prevent and treat killer diseases, hygiene is still fundamental to winning the battle against infectious disease in both developed and developing countries – and that's a job for all of us. This is not about shifting responsibility, it's about facing reality”. We need to share the responsibility when it comes to containing swine flu and other infectious diseases.

The report, published by an expert group for the International Scientific Forum of Home Hygiene, suggests that adequate hygiene and the provision of water and sanitation should be a shared priority. A family-centered approach that empowers people to change lifestyle habits, including diet and exercise, would go a long way for preventing the spread of diseases like swine flu, and other viral and bacterial illness.


Co-author Dr Elizabeth A Scott says, “The key to getting people to change their behaviour is to find a way to make hygiene behaviour more appealing and relevant by realigning it with other aspects of healthy living such as diet and exercise. People also need to understand that they can be proactive in protecting themselves and reducing their risk of acquiring an infection in their everyday lives”. Good hand washing and healthier lifestyles can help keep us from swine flu and emerging infections.

Professor Martin Exner, another study co-author, points out that disease prevention would reduce the amount of antibiotics that are overprescribed, causing antibiotic resistance, and threatening global health.

Professor Bloomfield says, “In the current climate where infectious disease agents and our immunity to these agents are constantly changing, we need to return to the "not-so-good old days" when our parents and grandparents knew that protecting themselves and their families against infectious diseases was part of their responsibility and an important part of daily life”. Protecting from diseases like the swine flu, or the next mutation of any flu or bacteria really can be a shared responsibility if we all have the right information.

The authors recommend less focus on treating swine flu, and other infections, and more focus on how families can prevent disease spread. The authors contend that families need better advice and support about how to prevent the spread of viruses like swine flu, which is vastly different than preventing the spread of diarrheal illnesses or MRSA.

Report from the CDC