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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Swine Flu (Frequently Asked Questions)

The outbreak of a new form of swine flu has prompted the United States and the World Health Organization to declare a public health emergency. President Obama has called the emergency a "precautionary tool," since so far the outbreak has had only limited impact in the United States. But public health officials are scrambling to determine the extent of the outbreak.

This outbreak could peter out, like a 1976 swine flu outbreak did. Or the virus could spread easily from one person to the next, sparking a pandemic in which millions of people are infected. Richard Besser, the acting CDC director, says it's too early to say if we'll see more severe disease here in the United States. "Viruses are unpredictable and variable over time," he said yesterday. "What we say and what we learn will change."

Here's the rundown on what we know so far, as well as the options for avoiding swine flu and for treating it if you get it.

How is swine flu different than seasonal influenza and bird flu?
This is a new flu bug that includes genetic segments from human, swine, and avian flu viruses. It is an influenza A H1N1 strain, named for two proteins in the bug's protein coat. H1N1 viruses often circulate without causing major outbreaks. But since this flu virus is new, people might not have immunity to it. That's why the global public health system is on alert. No one knows where this outbreak might lead.

What symptoms would tell me I have swine flu?
Swine flu symptoms are similar to the symptoms of regular seasonal flu, according to the CDC. Those include:

-Lack of appetite

Some people with swine flu have also reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

How can I tell if someone sitting next to me has swine flu?
You can't. If someone is showing the symptoms described above, it couldn't hurt to keep your distance. Jeff Duchin, chief of the communicable disease section at Public Health Seattle, says it's best to say 6 feet away from someone who has the flu because the virus spreads in droplets when people talk, cough, or sneeze. Of course, your neighbor might just have a stuffy nose caused by a mild cold or seasonal allergies.

Should I be wearing a face mask, like they're wearing in Mexico?
Not unless you're taking care of a person who's sick with swine flu or are sick yourself. Wearing masks is a popular reaction to respiratory outbreaks in parts of the world, but it's not a step that the U.S. government has recommended for the current outbreak. The CDC has an online guide to using masks and respirators to prevent flu transmission.

Is there a vaccine available for this new swine flu?
No. Developing and producing a vaccine matched to this flu virus will take several months. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said yesterday that a swine flu vaccine could be added to the seasonal flu vaccine now being produced for next fall, either as a replacement for one of the three strains in that vaccine or as an addition that makes it a four-strain vaccine.

What's the best way to avoid getting exposed to the swine flu virus?
For now, avoid people who are coughing or sick. The CDC also recommends hand washing to reduce the risk of flu. Though frequent hand washing hasn't specifically been proved to protect against swine flu, it does reduce the risk of respiratory infections generally.

What other things can I do to get my family prepared?
It never hurts to think about what you would do if swine flu hits your community hard, the CDC's Besser says. That may mean that schools would be closed, as has been done in Mexico. The federal government's pandemic flu website has suggestions on getting ready at home and at work. One example: Do you have enough food in the house to feed your family if you had to stay home for a week? You can also check with your employer to make sure the company has a plan in case of a flu pandemic. And you can prepare yourself for the possibility you'd have to work from home for a while.

Is it dangerous to eat pork?
No. This flu virus is spread from person to person by touching surfaces infected with the virus or by inhaling viruses from someone coughing. You can't get swine flu from eating pork.

What should I do if I or someone in my family is sick?
"Calling the doctor is never the wrong thing to do," says Mark Metursky, a professor of medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine and immediate past chair of the chest infection network for the American College of Chest Physicians. You'll know you have the flu and not just a cold if you've got a fever of 102 or more, a headache, and muscle aches.

"If you have a respiratory infection with fever, don't go to work or school," says Duchin. To minimize the risk of infecting others, avoid traveling by air and taking public transportation if you have the flu.

People aren't at risk of swine flu for now, Metursky says, unless they have traveled to Mexico of are exposed to someone who has.

What medications work against swine flu?
Laboratory tests suggest this swine flu is susceptible to the antiviral drugs Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir). To be effective, these drugs need to be taken as soon as possible after a person has flu symptoms. "The sooner you talk to your doctor the better," Metursky says. The CDC has new recommendations for using antivirals to treat swine flu; people who are sick and have recently been to Mexico or who have been exposed to people with swine flu should speak with a doctor about whether to take an antiviral medication.

Should I stockpile Tamiflu?
The federal government doesn't recommend that people stockpile Tamiflu at home, saying it should be saved for people who are sick with influenza now. But many public health scientists have set aside some Tamiflu for themselves in the past few years because of concern about the possibility of a pandemic caused by bird flu. It's your call.

I'm not sick. Should I avoid traveling?
This might not be the wisest time to vacation in Cancun, but travel hasn't been banned by the CDC and WHO, so it's up to you. Airlines will let passengers to certain destinations re-book their trips at no cost. Check the CDC or WHO website before traveling, because the advisories could change at any time.

Why has the swine flu been deadly in Mexico but not in the U.S.?
No one knows for sure. It could be that Americans who've gotten infected had better, faster access to health care. Or it could be that the U.S. is just at an earlier stage in the outbreak, Duchin says. If that's the case, U.S. deaths could occur as the outbreak matures.

Where do I look for more news on swine flu?
The CDC's new swine flu website is a good place to start, for information both on the state of the outbreak and on how to keep your family healthy.

source: US News by Nancy Shute

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Hello guys and hello to my fellow nurses. I guess most of you, while waiting for a chance to work at a hospital or clinic for that matter, are either taking up certifications and seminars to hon nursing knowledge and skills or reviewing for the NLCEX, CGFNS examns or IELTS/TOEFL.

Some say that it would be better to take up these qualifying exams for working abroad while the knowledge from school and the local nursing board review are still fresh from our minds (this is true, I suppose). Whatever the reasons are, it really depends on the timeline that you set for yourself on your nursing profession.

I am not alone in saying that most of the second-coursers that have already passed the local board prefer to take up the exams for abroad first and take the "shortcut" method of gaining a few months to a year of experience working in hospitals. Most of us (that includes me) do not have the luxury of time that the younger generation of nurses have. We did give up adequate-paying jobs to take up nursing for the bright promise of going abroad and earn more.

Well, this is not actually the reason why I am writing this blog for the week. Some nurses have asked for my assistance on how to apply for the NCLEX exam. They were asking if ever I hired an agency to assist me in processing my requirements.
There is no need actually to hire an agency to process the NCLEX requirements. The steps are just too easy and all that one actually should do is to download the forms and read the instructions from the appropriate Board of Nursing website in the US state where you are planning to qualify as a USRN.

If you want information on how to apply, here are some of the useful guidelines:

1) Visit There you will find at the upper right hand side a dropdown box with the words Quick Links. Click the dropdown box and select Boards of Nursing. This will bring you to a map of the US. Here you have two options; you click on the map of the state where you are planning to apply as a USRN or there is another dropdown box below the map where you would choose the state. Upon choosing the state, the page will show you the contact details of the state where you are applying for. It will also give you the state's board of nursing website.

2) Click on the state's board of nursing website and you will find there the information you need to be able to apply for a the examination

For my part, I applied for the NCLEX exam for the state of California. What I did was to go to California state's board of nursing website which is you will find a section "Information About" and below that you will find a subsection "Applying". Under "Applying" choose "Licensure by Examination". Download all the forms for NCLEX exam application by clicking on the link "Application for Licensure by Examination". Print all of them and fill them up. There are also forms there that will be filled up by the College of Nursing where you graduated.

After downloading the forms, go back to the previous page and click on the link "requests" In here, you will request for a finger print card which you will also be submitting to the board of nursing. Fill up the form and click submit. In about two weeks you will receive the finger print card directly from the board of nursing.

Request then for a copy of the Transcript of Records from your school registrar marked with the purpose NCLEX. Have your diploma photocopied and have it authenticated from the school registrar. Upon getting the TOR, go to your College of Nursing and submit the TOR and the forms that they will be filling up. Asked also for a copy of the RLE documents/form that contains the hours of your clinical and community exposires (the one you submitted to PRC when you applied for the Phil. Board Exams for Nurses).

Upon receipt of the finger print card from the mail, fill up the card and go to the local office of the NBI and ask for assistance in putting your fingerprints on the card. NBI personnel are the only persons authorized to assist you in fingerprinting.

Meanwhile please go over the downloaded documents and you will see the amount to be paid to the Board of Nursing. This amount covers the cost of checking the documents and granting eligibility to take the exams. You can also read there that you can issue a check to pay for the application. Follow the instructions given on what to write on the check.

One of the requirements also asked is a photocopy of your country's nursing license (local board exams passer) If you are a local board passer and are still waiting for your local license, you can actually send a certified copy of your board rating and a written explanation why you still do not have a license. If you haven't taken your local board exams yet, you can also write to inform them that such is the case.

You can also find a checklist from the downloaded documents the needed documents that you will be submiting. TAKE NOTE that the school documents (the one filled up by your college of nursing, TOR, RLE form) is assumed to be sent to the State's Board of Nursing DIRECTLY from the school. This is what the Board of Nursing requires. If this is not possible, make sure that you ask for an envelope with a letterhead of the school with a signature of the school registrar, enclosed the school documents inside it. DO NOT include any other documents. Send this through a courier e.g. LBC, DHL, UPS, Fedex, for faster and safe delivery.

For the other set of documents (the other forms, check, fingerprint card, copy of license, copy of diploma, etc), you will be sending these separately. Do not fold these documents. Make sure you are sending this set of documents about the same time or within a few days apart of sending the school documents in a separate pack.

Once sent, it will take a maximum of 5 months for your eligibility to be received. For my part it took only a month for my eligibility to be received.

Once you receive your eligibility, you can then schedule your exam for NCLEX. You can then visit and register an account. You will then fill up a form online to get an Authority to Test (ATT). Fill up the credit card information. You will be paying $200 for this. Before, it usually takes a few weeks to receive the ATT (through mail) but with the advent of the internet, you can actually receive it in a few minutes to a couple of hours. Make sure that you print the ATT upon receiving it through email. You will then browse through the site and lokk for the available schedules for NCLEX examinations. Upon getting and deciding on the examination date that is available, you then will call a hotline number to speak to a customer service representative. Keep your ATT handy since the representative will be verifying some information from you . He/she will be getting again your credit card information for the payment of an additional $150 for scheduling the exam.

I hope this helps you guys. I suggest if you are planning to take NCLEX review classes, make sure that you have already submitted the documents to the board of nursing and will just be waiting for the eligibility to arrive so that you will be free from the hassles of processing the requirements.

Good luck! Till my next blog..PEACE!