H1N1 virus still real threat

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    Many people think that H1N1 is behind us, but the Bullitt County Health Department would like to remind residents, that is not true. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), no states reported widespread influenza activity.

    Six states reported regional influenza activity. They are: Alabama, Georgia, Maine, New Jersey, New Mexico and Virginia. Overall cumulative hospitalization rates for the 2009-10 influenza season have leveled off in all age groups and very few 2009 H1N1-laboratory confirmed hospitalizations were reported by states during the week ending January 30.

    While the reports of H1N1 cases are no longer front page news, the H1N1 is far from being a page in history. Dr. Anne Schuchat, the Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases said, “Individual cases of the H1N1 influenza continue to occur, and people are being hospitalized, and they’re dying.”

    Winter months typically show an increase in flu cases. Most physicians are testing and seeing flu cases. Influenza-like activity is currently less than the national baseline level.  And it’s been below the national baseline for the past three consecutive weeks.  That’s fairly similar to what we would normally see at this time of year, with seasonal flu.

    Schuchat pointed out, “We are remaining vigilant here and do not think people should become complacent. H1N1 vaccination remains a good idea for this very preventable and sometimes serious disease. H1N1 flu activity seems to have leveled off, but the virus does continue to circulate, causing illness, hospitalizations and deaths.”

    Vaccination is such an easy step to take and it’s the best protection against this disease that can be serious. As opposed to last fall, today there is plenty of vaccine available. It’s really easy to be vaccinated now, and we hope people will take advantage of that.

    Bottom line: Vaccination now is still beneficial, because this virus is still around; and none of us can say exactly what we’ll see in the weeks and months ahead. H1N1 Vaccine is administered FREE at the Bullitt County Health Department.

How does H1N1 and seasonal flu virus spread?

    Spread of this H1N1 virus is thought to be happening in the same way that seasonal flu spreads. Flu viruses are spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose.

What are the signs and symptoms of this virus in people?

    The symptoms of this new influenza A H1N1 virus in people are similar to the symptoms of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

    A significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting.

    Also, like seasonal flu, severe illnesses and death has occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.

    The following are measures you can take to protect you and your family:

    * Always cover your nose or mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.  Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it and wash your hands. If a tissue is not readily available, cough or sneeze into your sleeve, rather than your hands.

    * Wash your hands often with soap and water.  Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective when soap and water are not available. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Wash with soap and water or clean with alcohol-based hand cleaner. We recommend that when you wash your hands — with soap and warm water — that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used.

    * Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.  If you are unsure of any symptoms you may be experiencing, please contact your physician.

    * Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth to decrease the spread of germs. Hands are the number one mode of travel for germs. Keeping your hands away from your face can cut down on illness in general.