UPDATE: Twitter Feeds on H1N1 / Swine Flu

Last month, I blogged about the use of twitter to push out information about emergency alerts and general preparedness information by a number of official (governmental and non-governmental organization) sources such as FEMA, CDC, the Red Cross and others.

Today, the utility of twitter to push out current and accurate information about emergencies has been proven in my mind, by the excellent coverage of the H1N1 / Swine Flu outbreak on twitter.

So much so that it prompted me to apply a new theme to this blog to add a third column, such that I could post twitter feeds from some of the best sources of information about the H1N1 / Swine Flu pandemic on this site.  Check them out on the left.  The latest five tweets from government sources, non-governmental organizations and a couple of the better media sources listed below will be posted on this site.

I also set up a twitter account called LP_SwineFlu to follow the feeds I’ve found to be reputable and reliable sources of information about the H1N1 / Swine Flu outbreak, but have yet to find a way to combine those into a single public feed I could post on this site (twitter requires login authorization to view the RSS feed of an accounts tweets plus tweets of those it is following).  I would appreciate any solutions others have found to this.  If there was an auto-retweet bot (discussed by seemingly unavailable) – that would solve 95% of the problem.

Until then, I’ve selected some of the best feeds to put on this site.

Essential Sources of H1N1 Information:

Government Sources:

whonews – from the World Health Organization.  WHO news releases related to H1N1 / Swine Flu as well as general public health information news and information are being tweeted here.

BirdFluGov – feed from official US government pan-agency pandemic flu site – http://www.pandemic flu.gov  – one-stop access to U.S. Government swine, avian and pandemic fly information.

CDCemergency – from the Centers for Disease Control Emergency Preparedness and Response division – this feed is providing the most regular updates from CDC.

H1N1Info – this may be a private effort – but is pulling all emergency updates exclusively from CDC Swine Flu page.

CDC_eHealth – from the Centers for Disease Control interactive media group – provides links to videos and podcasts related to H1N1 / Swine Flu as well as general public health information.

CDCFlu – from the Centers for Disease Control -general flu public information feed on prevention & vaccination; supposed to be providing updates from CDC Swine Flu RSS feed but is not yet actively posting H1N1 updates.

Non-Governmental Organization Sources:

Veratect – A private company that is providing the earliest detection of new information on H1N1 / Swine flu. This feed provides real-time output on the swine flu situation translated by their two operations centers from 37 languages globally.  This feed is providing some of the best, most accurate and up-to-date information about confirmed and suspected cases of H1N1 globally.

Healthmap – a public website bringing together disparate data sources (these are the tweets) to achieve a unified view of the current global state of infectious disease.  Check out their swine flu map – it’s better than the google mashup I posted earlier.

News Organizations Sources:

BreakingNews – the best source on twitter period for accurate global breaking news events coverage.  Anazingly accurate and always minutes, hours and sometimes days ahead of other news organizations on breaking news.

sanjayguptaCNN – CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta

cbshealth – the latest health news from CBSNews.com

msnbc_health – health, diet and nutrition news from msnbc.com

I would appreciate referrals to any other good sources of H1N1 information on twitter from similar sources.  I’m leaving out the private efforts of individuals as it is hard to verify their qualifications; most are reposting news stories from these and other sources.

CDC-TV Put Your Hands Together Video

If you are worried about swine flu, be sure to wash your hands regularly (and carry some hand sanitizer with you). The above video from the CDC is a great instructional video about how to protect yourself from illness through good hygiene habits, especially through effective hand-washing.

Swine Flu 2009 – the Map

Courtesy of Google Maps and poached from my friend’s blog, The Road to the Horizon: Here are the cases of the H1N1 Swine flu infections (in 2009).

Pink markers are suspect
Purple markers are confirmed
Deaths lack a dot in marker
Yellow markers are negative

Don’t Panic – Swine Flu in US and NYC

A colleague wrote today that he has “literally nothing to add to the swine flu discussion,” but blogged on it anyway.  I’m not sure that I have anything original to add either, but the public and media hysteria is reaching a fever (no pun intended) pitch over something that is not yet deserving of it, and it seems required that every preparedness practitioner comment on it.

So here’s my current take on the swine flu outbreak:  Don’t Panic


The Facts about Swine Flu in NYC

Swine flu outbreak in NYC is not spreading – according to NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene press release as of 1:30 PM today:

April 27, 2009 – The Health Department today announced that four days of close monitoring has yet to show any increase in reports of severe respiratory illness in New York City. The agency is investigating a cluster of illness at the St. Francis Preparatory School in Queens, where 100 students missed classes because of flu-like illness last week. Daily calls with hospitals and monitoring of admissions have yet to suggest a wider or more severe outbreak.

The virulent form of Swine Flu that has killed almost 200 in Mexico is not exactly the one that has shown up in the United States, including in the City of New York, where 100s of students at a private school in Queens have come down with a related form of influenza.  Virtually all of the St. Francis Preparatory School students who have come down with the flu recover within a day or two, and those who have not yet recovered are not reporting a worsening of the symptoms.  And there are no confirmed cases of the swine flu that originated in Mexico outside of this student population cluster in the City (though there are scattered cases elsewhere in the United States).  And although the confirmed cases of swine flu in the City is expected to go over 100, to match the number of St. Francis Prep students who have come down with flu-like symptoms but have yet to have tests confirm the diagnosis, there is no need to panic or fear a broader outbreak in the City at this time.

This information is according to a press conference and briefing just concluded held by the City of New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, along with the City’s Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Friedan, and a representative from the Centers from Disease Control.  Archived video will be available shortly on the http://www.nyc.gov homepage.

Don’t Panic


The Facts about Swine Flu

The symptoms of swine flu in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with swine flu. (source: CDC)

If you are feeling sick, have a fever, coughing and sneezing, you should stay home.  Don’t run off to the emergency room, which are often crowded with people you may easily infect.

Take these everyday steps to protect your health:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Don’t Panic


More Information About Swine Flu

There is lots of additional good information on the web from reputable public health information sources – the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control, and the City of New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.  (But not the EU Health Commissioner, whose issuance of a travel advisory for Europeans to postpone nonessential travel to the US is just nonsense at this time.)

If you want to read up – here’s some of these reputable sources:

World Health Organization:

World Health Organization Epidemic and Pandemic Alert & Response Disease Outbreak News

U.S. Government / Centers for Disease Control:

One-stop access to U.S. government swine, avian and pandemic flu information

CDC Swine Flu Homepage

Fact Sheet – Q & A: Swine Influenza & You

FactSheet – Q & A: Key Facts about Swine Influenza (Swine Flu)

Fact Sheet: Preventing the Flu: Good Health Habits Can Help Stop Germs

Brochure: Swine Influeza (Flu) in Pigs and People

Interim Guidance for Swine influenza A (H1N1): Taking Care of a Sick Person in Your Home

CDC Podcast on Swine Flu

City of New York:

The City of New York’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) has a lot of great information posted about the swine flu outbreak in the City and generally.

NYC DOHMH homepage

Fact Sheet: Swine Flu: What New Yorkers Need to Know

NYC DOHMH Bureau of Communicable Diseases Swine Flu information

NYC Office of Emergency Management Pandemic Flu Guide

So, Don’t Panic… if you don’t panic about the swine flu you will be Living Prepared™.

Sahana blogged by Gartner’s Roberta Witty

The Gartner Group”s Roberta Witty recently blogged on Sahana in “Sahana: A Free, Open Source Disaster Relief Management System” following a conference call I participated in with her this past Tuesday along with fellow Sahana transition board members Brent Woodworth and Mifan Careem.  It’s a nice write-up from an influential source – the Gartner Group is the premier analysis and research authority in the IT industry – that I hope will help spread the word about Sahana’s benefits and bring more contributors into the community from the emergency management field.  An excerpt follows:

Sometimes the best things in life are still free, and good news can come from surprising sources. On Tuesday, Rick DeLotto and I were briefed by the Sahana Project, an award winning, free and open source, web-based disaster relief management system designed to “Help alleviate human suffering and help save lives through the efficient use of IT during a disaster”. It was first developed by the open source community, and is maintained by volunteers, with support from IBM, Google, NSF and Sida. You should run right over to Sahana and get a look at it, tell your friends, and spread the word. It might be just what your home town needs to keep YOU safe.

Patient Zero?

chickenpox

I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing chicken pox for the first time in my 42 years over the past week and a half. It started with incredible fatigue, body aches and pains (as advertised), then I noticed the first “pox” a few days later – starting on the head and trunk.   By Saturday, one week ago, I had a full outbreak over much of my body.  It didn’t itch so much as hurt after the blisters popped and I was covered with open sores.  I visited a walk-in clinic in Sarasota, Florida, where I had taken the family on vacation during spring school vacation week, where I was officially diagnosed with chickenpox and put on a 5-day course of anti-virals.  For the next three-four days, I ran a fever that ran between 100 and 102, occasionally spiking to 103.

Thursday, I spent in the ER, after suffering the onset of a severe headache that morning, which could have been symptomatic of the onset of encephelitis, a rare but serious possible complication of chickenpox in adults.  After a CT scan which was negative, I was sent home again with a heavy-duty pain reliever prescription.  Over the next day, the headache, caused by nerves becoming affected by the virus, became worse, and all but unbearable without pain-killers.

Today, about 10 days after it all began, I finally feel a lot better.  The headache is subsiding and my pox are all scabbed over, indicating that I’m no longer contagious.  But I’ve still been sleeping 14-16 hours per day.   We’ll see if I can get up tomorrow morning and try to enjoy the last day with the family, as I’ve barely left my bedroom since arriving.

I’ve been thinking about what this experience has meant for Living Prepared™.  Outside of explaining why I haven’t been blogging, I mean. I think that there are a few lessons to take note of:

  • Viral illnesses can be really debilitating, especially for adults.  A few years ago, my wife came down with a bad case of viral pneumonia and was similarly bedridden and wiped out for almost a month.  Suffering for less than two weeks in my case, still I was taken out of the game for a significant amount of time.
  • It is critical that your family be prepared to take over for you if you are taken out in the aftermath of a disaster by illness or disease.  A lot of our preparedness planning assumes we are healthy and able to respond and able to follow our response plans.  A better plan will assume otherwise.
  • Keep up with your immunizations.  As I haven’t been traveling internationally as much in the past few years, I noted before leaving for Sri Lanka that some of my immunizations had or were about to expire.  So check whether you are due for tetanus or meningitis or hepatitis or others and get them updated as needed.  This is something I’ll look at in a future post.

Overall, I felt pretty prepared being ill and away from home.  I had my insurance information with me, means to contact my primary care physician if that had been needed, means of payment for medical care and prescriptions.

As a coda, I have no idea where I was exposed to chickenpox.  It could have been in Sri Lanka or on one of the long plane-rides home or at the Dubai airport where I had a 14-hour layover.  Most adults these days had chickenpox as children, so are immune.  I never did.  Today’s kids are given a vaccine, so they don’t catch it either, and I think it is becoming rarer and perhaps more difficult to treat as it heads towards extinction as a disease.