Plum Creek Medical - Closer to Home ... Committed to Caring Since 1987

MYTH BUSTING 101 - 2009 H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and You

published on 10-05-2009

First of all, "Can I get it from pigs?" NO! That is a different virus.

Is it a pandemic? WHO (World Health Organization) said a pandemic was underway in June 2009. Eleven states now have widespread influenza activity…Colorado is not one of them. In the U.S. during week 35 of this year (August 30-September 5) there were 1380 hospitalizations, 196 deaths (1 pediatric death) of which 97% were 2009 Influenza A (H1N1) Flu. This remains below epidemic proportions. It is expected that the number of cases will significantly rise this Fall.

Symptoms of H1N1 Flu are: Fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. Diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration are also possible.

How do I protect myself and others? Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze; wash your hands after you cough or sneeze or touch things and/or people in a public place (or use an alcohol-based gel hand cleaner); avoid touching your nose, eyes or mouth; avoid close contact with sick people; have a plan to care for sick family members; stock-up on household, health and emergency supplies such as water, Tylenol, non-perishable foods. Get vaccinated against the seasonal influenza now. This vaccine is readily available at our clinic and other places…stores, health clinics, job sites, hospitals. Vaccine protection against the seasonal flu lasts 6 to 12 months. It is also offered as FluMist (sprayed into the nose), a live weakened virus for those 2 years old and older. FluMist does not cause influenza. When the 2009 H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) vaccine becomes available sometime in October, get it as well!

How effective are these vaccines? This is a difficult question to answer. Generally speaking, the effectiveness in healthy adults is between 70 and 90%, the "shot" being slightly more effective than the live attenuated virus which is sprayed into the nose.

Will there be enough of the 2009 H1N1 Flu vaccine? Initially this vaccine will be in limited supply and will only be given by certain health clinics chosen by the state health department. Our clinic will probably be one of these. Although this past week 97% of the influenza cases reported were of the 2009 H1N1 Flu type, it is recommended that you also get the seasonal flu vaccine because one can become infected with both strains of flu simultaneously. Initially, only those persons of high risk will receive the 2009 H1N1 Flu Vaccine. These persons are pregnant women, people who live with or care for infants less than 6 months of age, healthcare workers, a person between the ages of 6 months and 24 years and people ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems. When an abundant supply of this vaccine becomes available, it will be expanded to all persons over 6 months of age and probably additional clinics will provide the vaccine.

What do I do if I get sick? Treat the fever with acetaminophen (Tylenol), drink plenty of fluids and see one of our doctors. You can be tested for influenza and treated for a safer and speedier recovery. Not all flu cases will be treated, however, with antiviral drugs such as oseltamivir (Tamaflu) or zanamivir (Relenza). Preference will be given to persons hospitalized with influenza, those at a higher risk for complications (i.e. chronic illness or immunocompromised), children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 years and older and pregnant women. The CDC (Center for Disease Control in Atlanta) recommends that only the more severely ill get this medication so as to prevent the development of resistance from over prescribing. Thus not everyone who has the "flu" will receive medication.

You need emergency care when you develop: Difficulty breathing or are short of breath, pain or pressure in your chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, decreased or no movement of your baby or high fever not responding to Tylenol.

When am I NOT contagious? Previously we stated that after one week of illness or when the fever subsides. However, a scientist reported in a recent study at the Public Health Center in Quebec, Canada, that we are contagious until the cough goes away!

We truly desire that you have a safe and healthy year…


By: David C. Simon, MD FAAP

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