Flu Facts and H1N1 Update

 

 Fall is officially here as reflected by the change in weather and the beginning of the flu season. The concern about this year’s flu season has increased from previous years due to the outbreak of the 2009 H1N1 (previously known as ‘swine’ flu) – a new influenza virus that was first detected in United States’ residents in April 2009.

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious disease caused by influenza viruses, which infects the throat, nose and lungs. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized a year as a result of flu complications, with around 36,000 people dying annually as a result.

Symptoms of the flu include fever – usually high – extreme tiredness, headache, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat and achy muscles. Vomiting, nausea and diarrhea can also occur but are more common symptoms of children.

The flu viruses typically spread from person to person via sneezing and/or coughing or touching your nose/mouth after touching something that has been exposed to the virus. People can infect others one day before their symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick.

One of the best preventive measures from this disease is to get a seasonal flu vaccination each year. In addition to this precautionary measure you should also wash your hands with soap and water often.

October or November is recommended as one of the best times to get vaccinated, but as the influenza season occurs in January and sometimes even later so getting vaccinated in December or later can still be beneficial. It takes around 14 days to develop immunity after the injection and immunity lasts for approximately 90 days.

As H1N1 is an influenza virus it has similar attributes to the strands of the influenza virus that we have seen before. For example, pregnancy and high risk medical conditions from seasonal influenza are associated with an increased risk of complications from the 2009 H1N1.

One thing that is different about H1N1 compared to the seasonal influenza is that adults over the age of 64 do not appear to have increased risk of 2009 H1N1-related complications. One-third of the adults over the age of 60 have antibodies against this virus, while no children and few adults younger than 60 do not have them. On the other hand, statistics show that as a result of the seasonal flu around 60 percent of hospitalization and over 90 percent of deaths occur in people over the age of 65.

The new Novel H1N1 flu vaccine has been approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which paves the way for vaccinations to begin in mid-October.

McKenzie Medical Center – located behind the McKenzie Regional Hospital at 205 Hospital Drive - has placed its official order with the State Department of Health for the vaccine, which is due to be shipped during mid-October. McKenzie Medical Center is one of only 1500 locations in the state will receive shipment. The CDC recommends that adults 18 and over should receive one injection. The recommendation for children is not yet finalized.

Dr. Winkler commented, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – so get a flu shot. I get one every year and encourage my family members and patients to do the same.”

You should talk to your primary care provider for more information about the flu/flu shots or H1N1/vaccinations.

 

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