Earthwatch Institute, Maynard, MA, May 6, 2009 — Earthwatch has been monitoring the Influenza A (H1N1, also known as Swine Flu) situation very closely. As always, safety is our primary concern. At this time, Earthwatch projects are proceeding as scheduled. On May 15 we will decide the status of the teams projected to field in Mexico in late May, June and July, and will contact all impacted volunteers should any specific changes in scheduling be necessary.
Brief Update: The World Health Organization (WHO) states that 22 countries have officially reported 1516 cases of Influenza A (H1N1). The United States government has reported 403 laboratory confirmed cases, including one death. Mexico has reported 822 confirmed cases, including 29 deaths. Other countries reporting infections but no deaths include Austria, Canada, China, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, Costa Rica, Columbia, Denmark, El Salvador, France, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Currently, the virus is being transmitted between humans. The WHO has not issued any travel restrictions for H1N1 infected areas; however the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office recommend deferring all non-essential travel to Mexico.
Earthwatch advises all staff, scientists and volunteers 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, diarrhea, 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 travelers 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.
It should be noted that although the WHO has not issued any travel restrictions for Influenza A (H1N1) infected areas, significant further deterioration of the situation could lead authorities in a given country to control/prohibit travel to and from infected areas with little or no notice. International airports are currently operating normally in Mexico, though travelers are being screened for symptoms of the virus.
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:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office:
International Society for Infectious Disease:
http://www.internationalsos.com/en/index.htm - Member Login: 14ACPA000075