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Stop the spread of H1N1

Thursday, October 29, 2009

By now, I'm sure there are very few of our readers who haven't had a bout with the flu or known someone who has. Physicians are not trying to diagnose whether a person is suffering from the H1N1 form of the flu or the seasonal flu, they are just treating patients as if it is the H1N1 and advising them to stay home and quarantine themselves until their fevers are gone and they are no longer contagious.

The H1N1 is different than the seasonal flu in that it is targeting younger people. The older adults I know who have gotten the flu have contracted it from their children who have suffered from it. Because this virus is more prevalent among school-age children, it is imperative that parents remain vigilant and watch their children for flu symptoms, and if their child is exhibiting these symptoms and running a fever, keep them home from school. Parents should be prepared to stay home from work to care for their children or have someone on call to watch their children should they fall ill.

Likewise, adults should also know to stay home if they are running a fever or exhibiting flu-like symptoms. The H1N1 has the potential to turn into a pandemic and the only way we have a chance of slowing down its spread is to stay vigilant and make sure we aren't exposing others to the virus if we have it.

For those who don't know the symptoms that accompany the H1N1 virus, we'll list them again. Symptoms include: a temperature of 100F or higher for three to four days; a non-productive (non-mucus producing) cough is usually present with the flu (sometimes referred to as dry cough; severe aches and pains; chills; moderate to severe tiredness; rapid onset within three to six hours; and severe chest discomfort.

Awareness and education are key to controlling the spread of the H1N1 virus, and another simple defense that will help stop its spread is to practice good hygiene and cough etiquette. These guidelines include coughing into your elbow and washing your hands frequently.

It is also recommended that priority groups, who include pregnant women, young people age 2 to 24 and healthcare workers and caregivers age 25 through 49, receive the H1N1 vaccine when it is available. Right now, the vaccine is available locally on a limited basis through the Barry County Health Department. New shipments are arriving weekly, and the Cassville Democrat will be publishing information about vaccine availability as we receive it.

So in short, we are urging residents to quarantine themselves if they are running a fever and exhibiting flu-like symptoms and to do the same with their children who fall ill. We also ask people to think ahead and prepare a flu treatment kit that contains items they may need to alleviate the symptoms of the flu rather than wait until they get the flu and then go out to retail outlets to get the supplies they need and expose others to the virus. Practicing good hygiene and cough etiquette is our final anti-flu recommendation. The medical community cannot solve the flu epidemic by themselves. They need our cooperation to stem the spread of the H1N1 virus.

Lisa Schlichtman