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Posts Tagged ‘pandemic’

Flu activity seems to have quieted down recently, for which we can all be thankful. But the flu season is not over yet. Influenza is still out there.

Many states are reporting flu activity, which still remains a threat. Seasonal influenza usually peaks in February and March and can continue as late as May. So increased activity from the seasonal influenza, the H1N1 flu or both is still possible.

We need to remember the 1957-58 pandemic, when flu activity decreased in December and January. Thinking the worst was over, officials relaxed their push to get people vaccinated. When flu activity significantly returned in February and March, many were hospitalized, and deaths increased, as well. This could be a good lesson for us today.

So far during this flu season, most activity has been attributed to the H1N1 virus, which first appeared in April.

By the middle of November, the United States had reported roughly 47 million H1N1 flu cases. This resulted in well over 200,000 hospitalizations and caused nearly 10,000 deaths. About a thousand of those deaths were in children younger than 18, a number of whom were healthy before they caught the flu. That is why it is important not to take this disease lightly.

Although I think everyone would benefit from the flu vaccine, it is especially important for certain groups. You should be vaccinated if you:

• Have a chronic illness such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes.

• Are pregnant.

• Are 65 years or older, and therefore are at increased risk of complications.

• Care for or live with a baby less than 6 months of age, as these infants are too young to be vaccinated for influenza.

Children who are 9 years old or younger need two doses of vaccine about a month apart; however, waiting more than a month between doses does not seem to decrease the effectiveness of the vaccine. Adults need only one dose.

HSN1 Virus Under a Microscope

Regarding popular worries about side effects of the H1N1 vaccine, data from the established surveillance systems would indicate that H1N1 has a safety profile similar to that of the seasonal flu vaccine. No significant pattern of adverse health events have been seen with either of the vaccines.

The bottom line is that although flu activity has died down this past month, the season is not over. It is still important to get vaccinated and be prepared for a possible increase in flu activity, which could occur between now and May. At this time, there appears to be enough vaccine for anyone who wants it.

I would like to thank the Palo Alto Medical Foundation’s Santa Cruz Incident Command Committee for supplying some of the information for this article.

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Health officials are concerned about the possibility of a surge in swine flu cases appearing soon after students return to school this fall.

The symptoms of H1N1 infection, called swine flu, include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache and, sometimes, vomiting and diarrhea.

To help prevent an epidemic of this illness, we must all do our part. If you become sick with these symptoms, you will probably be ill for at least one week. You should stay at home and avoid close contact with others as much as possible.

Avoid most of your usual activities, such as school, work, shopping, social events and public gatherings. Do not resume any of these activities until at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. This period of isolation is of utmost importance to help prevent the spread of swine flu.

Schools will send sick students home. When an ill child is identified, there may be isolation rooms where students will wait until they can be picked up and taken home.

At all times during your illness, you need to cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue and wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 15 to 20 seconds, or use one of the many available alcohol-based hand sanitizers.

Avoid face-to-face contact with others by keeping a distance of at least 3 or 4 feet between you. If you have to leave home to seek medical care or for some other necessity, wear a mask.

In case of a severe swine flu epidemic, many of us may need to be confined to our homes for a period of time. I recommended having the following supplies on hand to get through a period of home confinement:

  • A one- to two-week supply of food and water.
  • Medication for treating fever, aches and pains, such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil (ibuprofen).
  • Cough medication, such as Robitussin DM, Vicks 44 or honey/menthol lozenges.
  • Throat lozenges, such as Sucrets Complete (with dyclonine and menthol).
  • Electrolyte drinks, such as Gatorade or Powerade.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer, such as Purell.
  • Surgical masks, obtainable from most pharmacies.
  • In the event of a major swine flu epidemic, being able to see a doctor and receiving treatment may be difficult. That is why I recommend the above list of supplies and home remedies.

    No one knows how the swine flu season will unfold. I hope it will be no worse than any other flu year. But we have to be prepared, just in case.

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