Swine Flu which is invading the world like an epidemic has become a great problem for the medical as well as the dental professionals who are in constant contact with many different kinds of patients with variety of conditions.
First lets know what H1N1/ Swine Flu is:
What is H1N1 Flu?
H1N1 flu is caused by type A strains of the influenza virus, and is being described as a new subtype of A/H1N1 not previously detected in swine or humans.
What are the Symptoms?
Those carrying the virus can reveal typical flu-like symptoms:
- Fever (greater than 100ºF)
- Head and body aches
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Vomiting and diarrhea
More serious illnesses such as pneumonia or respiratory illness have also been reported.
So ADA has given some Guidelines for the Prevention/ precautionary measures to be taken by Dental Professionals.
Infection control issues during patient assessment:
- Patients with an acute respiratory illness should be identified at check-in and placed in a single-patient room with the door kept closed.
- Offer a disposable surgical mask to persons who are coughing, or provide tissues and no-touch receptacles for used tissue disposal.
- The ill person should wear a surgical mask when outside the patient room.
- Dental healthcare personnel assessing a patient with influenza-like illness should wear disposable surgical facemask*, non-sterile gloves, gown, and eye protection (e.g., goggles) to prevent direct skin and conjunctival exposure. These recommendations may change as additional information becomes available.
- Patient and dental healthcare workers should perform hand hygiene (e.g., hand washing with non-antimicrobial soap and water, alcohol-based hand rub, or antiseptic handwash) after having contact with respiratory secretions and contaminated objects/materials.
- Routine cleaning and disinfection strategies used during influenza seasons can be applied to the environmental management of swine influenza.
Some of the common Questions asked by dental professionals regarding their safety in case of Swine flu patient visiting their clinic:
1) What to do if a patient with acute respiratory symptoms requires urgent dental care?
If urgent dental care is required and swine influenza A (H1N1) has either been confirmed or is suspected, the care should be provided in a facility (e.g., hospital with dental care capabilities) that provides airborne infection isolation (i.e., airborne infection isolation room with negative pressure air handling with 6 to 12 air changes per hour).
For aerosol-generating procedures, use a procedure room with negative pressure air handling. Personnel providing direct patient care for suspected or confirmed swine influenza A (H1N1) cases should wear a fit-tested disposable N95 respirator when entering the patient room and when performing dental procedures.
2) What to do if a patient presents for routine treatment and has acute respiratory symptoms with or without fever?
If the dentist suspects the illness could be due to swine influenza (symptoms include fever, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, or vomiting or diarrhea), elective dental treatment should be deferred and the patient should be advised to contact their general health care provider. The health care provider will determine whether influenza testing or treatment is needed.