I know that I just discussed swine flu (H1N1) recently. Twice, in fact. But things have changed slightly, even in these last few weeks. And since this is our country’s most emergent health issue, I thought an update would be important.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have officially announced widespread H1N1 activity throughout most of the United States, including Utah. The severity of an influenza season is most often measured by the number of hospitalizations due to influenza illness and pneumonia and the number of influenza-related deaths. According to Lyn Finelli, a CDC flu surveillance official, “ In people ages 5 to 64, there have been as many flu-related hospitalizations in the last six weeks as there usually are in an entire flu season. This level of activity so early in the influenza season is extremely unusual. The message that the public should be taking from this is that H1N1 is a real public health threat, and we all need to follow appropriate measures to protect ourselves and our communities.”
So, what should you do? First of all, don’t panic. Some people feel that all of the media coverage of H1N1 either making them panic or desensitizing them. Don’t let yourself be desensitized, either. Stay informed, and be proactive about protecting your health.
How do you do this?
Step 1: Maintain good personal hygiene. Wash your hands frequently and cough into your elbow.
Step 2: Stay Home. If you are experiencing any flu-like illness, do not attend work or school. Try to isolate yourself from others.
Step 3: Vaccinate if you are eligible. The following is a list of who should receive a vaccine at this point:
• Those under the age of 64 who have chronic medical conditions associated with higher risk of medical problems from influenza
• Pregnant women
• People who live with or care for children younger than six months of age
• Health care or emergency medical personnel
• Children aged six months to 24 years old
The current H1N1 has not yet been approved for anyone over the age of 65.
As you may have heard, vaccine production is currently behind what officials estimated earlier in the year. The CDC is hopeful that vaccine production will catch up sometime in November and will be more widely distributed.
I also know that many people are concerned about getting any vaccine. According to the CDC, the H1N1 vaccine is showing a similar safety track to the seasonal influenza vaccine, which has had a very good safety track record. The most common side effects of vaccine are soreness or redness at the injection site, mild muscle aches, mild fever and nausea. For more information about the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, you may go to cdc.gov.
The Salt Lake Valley Health Department is working to distribute H1N1 vaccine to the public as quickly as possible. To find out how and where to access vaccine and to get current updates on H1N1 please go to slvhealth.org.