Friday, September 4, 2009

Tips For Staying Safe During Flu Season

Flu season will soon be upon us and we will need to be particularly careful due to the presence of the Swine Flu or H1N1 virus. The Swine Flu is now being called Novel H1N1 because it is a new flu virus that is causing illness in people. This new virus was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus is unique in that it is a combination of flu virus strains that have been observed in pigs, birds and humans. This virus is spreading from person-to-person through coughing or sneezing, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread. The World Health Organization is classifying the novel H1N1 flu as a “pandemic” because it is a new virus strain that has never infected people before and also is affecting people on a global scale, spreading from one continent to another.

The symptoms of novel H1N1 flu virus in people include fever (over 100 degrees), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus. The effects of novel H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe and most people who have become ill with this new virus have recovered without requiring medical treatment About 70 percent of people who have been hospitalized with novel H1N1 virus have had one or more medical conditions previously recognized as placing them at “high risk” of serious seasonal flu-related complications. This includes pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease. Interestingly, the information from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that novel H1N1 flu has caused greater complications in people younger than 25 years of age than older people. At this time, there are few cases and few deaths reported in people older than 64 years old, which is unusual when compared with regulas seasonal flu. So far, novel H1N1 appears to have the affects of seasonal influenza and the feared deadly impact has not been apparent.

What To Do
People infected with seasonal and novel H1N1 are contagious, and may be able to infect others from 1 day before getting sick 5 to 7 days after. This can be longer in some people, especially children and people with weakened immune systems and people infected with the new H1N1 virus. A person with novel H1N1 illness should be excluded from school, work, and related activities and should not go into the community, except to seek medical care, until they are symptom-free (no fever without fever control medications and feels well) for at least 24 hours. In order to protect yourself and to stay healthy, you should do the following:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners or hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol are also effective. Wash with soap and water with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds (sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice).

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

• Stay home if you get sick and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

By Godfrey Rivera

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