Earthwatch Swine Flu Advisory: UPDATE
Earthwatch Institute, Maynard, MA, USA June 11, 2009 — Earthwatch has been monitoring the Influenza A (H1N1, also known as Swine Flu) situation very closely.
Earthwatch is aware that the World Health Organisation Pandemic Phase has been raised from 5 to 6, after a WHO meeting at 10:00 GMT. Phase 5 is characterised by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterised by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way.
At this time, the WHO does not recommend a restriction on international travel and therefore, Earthwatch projects are proceeding as scheduled. Any necessary changes to Earthwatch project scheduling based on WHO travel recommendations will be updated here. As always, safety is our primary concern.
Earthwatch advises all staff, scientists and volunteers to continue to take basic precautions: observe good hygiene (wash hands frequently, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing) and avoid people who are obviously sick. Signs and symptoms of Influenza A (H1N1) include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, runny nose, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhoea, and joint pain. There is also no risk of infection from this virus from consumption of well-cooked pork and pork products. It is recommended that any persons experiencing symptoms should consult a physician.
Please be aware of the potential for travel delays. The threat of the Influenza A (H1N1) virus spreading to additional countries is high due to the frequency of international air travel; therefore, medical screening procedures have been implemented throughout the world's international airports. Earthwatch recommends all travellers contact their airline to obtain additional information concerning screening procedures specific to their location and destination. Participants entering/exiting an infected country should expect to be screened both upon departure and arrival. Participants should be prepared for delays on both ends and allow extra time for travel through the airport. Volunteers in transit should carry their expedition briefing and relevant contact information with them, and contact project staff if they expect to miss their scheduled rendezvous. In the event a passenger is symptomatic and departing an infected country, they may be prevented from boarding their flight and could potentially be quarantined.
On a daily basis the Earthwatch Field Management team monitors conditions that might affect staff and volunteer safety on our projects. We regularly review announcements from the WHO, the CDC, the US State Department, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs. In addition, we receive daily updates from International SOS, our health and security consultants and emergency medical and evacuation assistance provider.
Earthwatch will continue to monitor the situation closely and respond as appropriate to any further developments. Earthwatch cannot guarantee anyone's safety completely. Natural and political disasters can and do happen without warning. Volunteers should read their Expedition Briefings thoroughly and think carefully about their personal comfort level with the field conditions of the project, the volunteer tasks and their own physical and mental capabilities. We encourage volunteers to educate themselves about Influenza A (H1N1) by consulting the following resources:
World Health Organization:
Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade:
Australian Government Smart Traveller:
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention:
United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office: