By Crystal Crawford
Mayor, Del MarYou’ve heard it all before, most likely from your mother, but it’s more important than ever to “Cover your mouth when you cough!” “Wash your hands!” and “If you’re feeling ill, go to bed!”
This year, both the seasonal flu and the novel H1N1 flu virus are here and testing us. The H1N1 virus first appeared in San Diego in the spring of 2009. Both viruses can be spread through coughs, sneezes, and by handling objects that are contaminated with the virus and then touching your nose, eyes or mouth.
One of the anomalies of the H1N1 is that it appears to affect young people. Because it is new, most people have little or no immunity to H1N1 flu virus. Data indicates that cases of H1N1 are highest in the 5- to 24-year-old age group, followed by children under 5 and lowest in the 65 and older age group. Hospitalizations are highest in the youngest age group, and deaths are highest in the 25- to 49-year age group. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a very informative Web site (www.cdc.gov) and our local health officials are being kept aware of any new developments.
People infected with both seasonal flu and H1N1 may be able to shed the virus and infect others from one day prior to feeling ill and up to five to seven days after. Prevention is the best medicine. You can help protect yourself and others by following some simple guidelines: Maintain a healthy lifestyle including rest, diet and exercise; wash your hands frequently and thoroughly; avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth; keep surfaces such as telephones and doorknobs clean; do not use co-workers’ phones or work tools; if you’re sick, stay home; and get vaccinated against both the H1NI and seasonal flu.
You are a candidate for the H1N1 flu vaccine if you are a pregnant woman, a caregiver of a child 6 months old or younger, a healthcare or emergency medical provider, are between 6 months and 24 years old, or 25 through 65 years of age and have underlying medical conditions that are associated with medical complications associated with influenza.
This vaccine is made just like seasonal flu vaccines and is expected to be as safe and effective as seasonal flu vaccines. However, the vaccine will not prevent seasonal flu, so you should also get seasonal influenza vaccine if you want to be protected against both flu strains. The risks from inactivated H1N1 vaccine are similar to those from seasonal inactivated flu vaccine. More information about the H1N1 vaccine can be found at the CDC Web site.
Check with your healthcare provider or pharmacist for the correct and safe use of medications. If you do become sick, be watchful for emergency warning signs that might indicate you need to seek medical attention. The CDC’s Hotline at 1-800-CDC-INFO is available in English and Spanish, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.