As the Old Man Winter approaches and the air blows with a chill, summer-loving folk deny the upcoming cold season by continuing to wear sun hats and flip flops. However, with 5% to 20% of the United States population contracting the flu each year, maybe it’s time to consider tube socks instead of tube tops.
This flu season promises to be a particularly harsh one, with the entrance of a new strain of Influenza virus: the H1N1, or “swine” flu. Last week alone, CDC has tested 8,268 people positive for Influenza. All subtyped influenza A viruses being reported to CDC were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses. Whereas the typical flu season starts in late November, making the emergence of the H1N1 virus first influenza pandemic (global outbreak of disease) in more than 40 years. Additionally, the flu season has started earlier than usual, with over 13,000 cases of the flu nationwide since August 30th.
The signs of the H1N1 are quite similar to the Seasonal Flu, requiring a test to differentiate between strains.
All types of flu can cause:
o Coughing and/or sore throat
o Runny or stuffy nose
o Headaches and/or body aches
o Fatigue Similar to seasonal flu, but symptoms may be more severe.
There may be additional symptoms. A significant number of H1N1 flu cases:
For both types of flu, symptoms can range from mild to severe.
Despite this new strain of flu virus, CDC’s recommendations to avoid getting sick remain the same:
ο Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
ο Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
ο Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
ο Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
ο Stay home if you are sick until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100°F or 37.8°C) or signs of a fever (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®).
ο Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
Additionally, CDC recommends that those at high risk for contracting either type of Influenza virus be vaccinated. Those groups include:
For seasonal flu:
People who should get the seasonal vaccine each year are:
1. Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
2. Pregnant women
3. People 50 years of age and older
4. People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
5. People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
6. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
• Health care workers
• Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
• Household contacts and caregivers of children <5 years of age with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children <6 months of age (these children are at higher risk of flu-related complications
For the H1N1 virus, prioritized groups for vaccination include:
1. People with more severe illness, such as those hospitalized with suspected or confirmed influenza
2. People with suspected or confirmed influenza who are at higher risk for complications
• Children younger than 2 years old
• Adults 65 years and older
• Pregnant women
• People with certain chronic medical or immunosuppressive conditions
3. People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
So, remember: When Jack Frost comes nipping at your nose, it’s time to bundle up, keep your hands clean, cover your coughs and get your flu vaccine.
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