Tuesday, September 1, 2009

10 ways to be H1N1 SAvvy

This summer, the virus has been surprisingly tenacious in the U.S., refusing to fade away as flu viruses usually do. And health officials predict a surge of cases this fall, perhaps very soon as schools reopen.

A White House report from an expert panel suggests that from 30 percent to half the population could catch swine flu during the course of this pandemic and that from 30,000 to 90,000 could die.

So how worried should you be and how do you prepare? The Associated Press has tried to boil down the mass of information into 10 things you should know to be flu-savvy.

1. No cause for panic.

So far, swine flu isn't much more threatening than regular seasonal flu.

During the few months of this new flu's existence, hospitalizations and deaths from it seem to be lower than the average seen for seasonal flu, and the virus hasn't dramatically mutated. That's what health officials have observed in the Southern Hemisphere where flu seasonis now winding down.

Still, more people are susceptible to swine flu and U.S. health officials are worried because it hung in so firmly here during the summer — a time of year the flu usually goes away.

2. Virus tougher on some.

Swine flu is more of a threat to certain groups — children under 2, pregnant women, people with health problems like asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Teens and young adults are also more vulnerable to swine flu.

Ordinary, seasonal flu hits older people the hardest, but not swine flu. Scientists think older people may have some immunity from exposure years earlier to viruses similar to swine flu.

3. Wash your hands often and long.

Like seasonal flu, swine flu spreads through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick. Emphasize to children that they should wash with soap and water long enough to finish singing the alphabet song, "Now I know my ABC's..." Also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

4. Get the kids vaccinated.

These groups should be first in line for swine flu shots, especially if vaccine supplies are limited — people 6 months to 24 years old, pregnant women, health care workers.

Also a priority: Parents and caregivers of infants, people with those high-risk medical conditions previously noted.

5. Get your shots early.

Millions of swine flu shots should be available by October. If you are in one of the priority groups, try to get your shot as early as possible.

Check with your doctor or local or state health department about where to do this. Many children should be able to get vaccinated at school. Permission forms will be sent home in advance.

6. Immunity takes awhile.

Even those first in line for shots won't have immunity until around Thanksgiving.

That's because it's likely to take two shots, given three weeks apart, to provide protection. And it takes a week or two after the last shot for the vaccine to take full effect.

The regular seasonal flu shot should be widely available in September. People over 50 are urged to be among the first to get that shot.

7. Vaccines are being tested.

Health officials presume the swine flu vaccine is safe and effective, but they're testing it to make sure.

The federal government has begun studies in eight cities across the country to assess its effectiveness and figure out the best dose. Vaccine makers are doing their own tests as well.

8. Help! Surrounded by swine flu.

If an outbreak of swine flu hits your area before you're vaccinated, be extra cautious.

Stay away from public gathering places like malls, sports events and churches. Try to keep your distance from people in general. Keep washing those hands and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.

9. What if you get sick?

If you have other health problems or are pregnant and develop flu-like symptoms, call your doctor right away. You may be prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza. These drugs can reduce the severity of swine flu if taken right after symptoms start.

If you develop breathing problems (rapid breathing for kids), pain in your chest, constant vomiting or a fever that keeps rising, go to an emergency room.

Most people, though, should just stay home and rest. Cough into your elbow or shoulder. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks. Fluids and pain relievers like Tylenol can help with achiness and fever. Always check with a doctor before giving children any medicines. Adult cold and flu remedies are not for them.

10. No swine flu from barbecue.

You can't catch swine flu from pork — or poultry either (even though it recently turned up in turkeys in Chile). Swine flu is not spread by handling meat, whether it's raw or cooked.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

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On the Net:

CDC swine flu basics: http://www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu/qa.htm

11 comments:

Frau said...

My only question is have had enough time to properly test the vaccine. Seems like there are alot of unknowns there. The flu vaccine has been around forever so they know the side effect etc.. but this is all so new.

zenmasterlauren said...

I couldn't agree more with Frau. Actually I've been writing this on my twitter a lot. I don't get flu shots ever. So I don't plan on running out to get this swine flu one. My blood disorder is one in which the body destroys its own platelets...so immunity-wise I don't want to do anything that could cause my body to go haywire. I believe in building natural immunity...so personally I would rather catch it and deal with that than get some processed vaccine that we know nothing about. I just feel like we should wash our hands. If you are going somewhere you are concerned about wear a mask! then wash your hands! (and clothes for that matter). The thing about pregnant women...gosh if I was pregnant I don't think I would want to get the vaccine either! I would just stay home!!!!!

zenmasterlauren said...

oh and thank god it doesn't come from bacon :) I love bacon! :)

Christy said...

I'm a little worried about getting a vaccine that was created so fast, but yet I definitely don't need to get the flu either. I don't know what I'll do yet.

Lucy's mom said...

I am really up in the air about getting Lucy vaccinated with such a new vaccine.
I am against vaccines being given so close together anyway (such a small child and lots of mercury in flu vaccs) and with the regular flu and the H1N1 it scares me a little. What is a mommy to do when all docs suggest I pump her full of these potential anecdotes?

Aspiemom said...

I haven't decided what I'll do yet and will be discussing it with both my CF dr. and Internist to get their opinions.

Like Christy said, you're taking a chance with a vaccine that's so newly created, but you don't want to get the Swine Flu, either!

preppyplayer said...

Thanks for all the info!
I think that you should get the shot. Plain and simple.
I think my kids should as they are in close contact with others constantly.
I may not, although I will get the regular flu shot...
My husband isn't sure yet.

Lisa said...

I just took my two older daughters to college and H1N1 is starting to hit both campuses. My daughters sorority had a few girls become sick with it in one day. Just the day before the whole sorority was together the entire day inside the house for meetings so I am expecting to hear about more cases. I sent them to school loaded with Lysol, Clorox Wipes and hand sanitizer. Of course that stuff only works if they use it.

Emilee said...

I am still undecided on what to do. Im with everyone else in the fact that I am nervous about a vaccine that they really dont know the side effects. I just pray I dont get it and I hope I will know what to do when it is available.

Leah said...

I thought about you yesterday....we had a "smoke health alert" here in Denver. We had horrible haze here because of smoke from the CA wildfires. hope it's ok there.

Paul, Missy & Riley said...

This totally scares me to! I am 6 months pregnant and dont know if I want the shote because they dont have any reports on what affect it may or may not have on my unborn baby! Is it a "live" vacination?