Autumn is almost here. The cooler weather not only ushers in beautiful fall foliage but influenza. This year, in addition to the usual seasonal flu strain, we are anticipating a surge of the H1N1 flu.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the swine flu (or H1N1 virus) is reaching pandemic (worldwide) proportions. Despite its name, “swine flu” is not contracted from pigs, nor by consuming pork products. It was originally referred to as swine flu because it closely resembles a virus that affects pigs. People contract swine flu or H1N1 from other “infected” humans.
We at Orchard Health Care feel that the best way to prevent getting the H1N1, or any influenza for that matter, is to be proactive and know how to protect yourself and others.
- Know the symptoms of H1N1 — the symptoms are similar to those associated with seasonal influenza virus — fever, chills, runny nose, congestion, sore throat, cough, body aches, headache, and fatigue, and may also include diarrhea, vomiting and nausea.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle — get enough sleep, exercise, and nutrition as well as cut down on stressors that can lower your defenses.
- Frequently wash your hands — germs are transmitted by your hands, so wash with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds or use a germicidal lotion (such as Purell) if soap and water aren’t available. Remember that germs are transmitted by touching your eyes, nose or mouth so avoid touching them unless your hands are clean.
- Cover your mouth when coughing and cover your nose when sneezing. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm to prevent respiratory droplets from spreading.
- If you are sick, stay home and rest — from school, work, shopping, etc. If you have a fever, you may be contagious. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks to decrease the likelihood of infecting others.
- If you are really sick, we will arrange to see you in the office for evaluation. Please wear a mask (if you have one available) when you come, or take one immediately upon arriving. Medications such as Tamiflu may be effective and appropriate and will be available.
- Avoid contact with sick people — if unavoidable, wear a mask and ask the sick person to do the same as well.
- At work, don’t use co-workers phones, keyboards, or mice. Frequently clean common areas such as the fax or copy machine with a germicidal wipe.
- Get vaccinated against influenza — the seasonal flu vaccine is already available at Orchard Health Care. According to the CDC, the H1N1 vaccine should be available in late October or early November. Persons at high risk are to be vaccinated first.
High risks groups include those individuals:
1. Age 5 or younger
2. Age 65 or older
3. Pregnant women
4. Individuals with chronic illnesses
5. Health care workers
With appropriate preparedness, self-protective measures and updated vaccines, we believe that avoiding or managing regular or swine flu will permit a reasonable and safe fall season.