This year, with the emergence of the H1N1 influenza virus, the flu season that generally lasts from October through May never really ended. H1N1 infections were first identified in April of 2009 in the United States and Mexico as seasonal influenza infections were beginning to ebb.
Since then the virus has traveled around the globe and is now making an encore appearance in the United States, hand and hand with the old faithful seasonal influenza.
As the season continues, it can be expected that more influenza-type illness than usual will occur due to the fact that many people have not been vaccinated against, or had prior exposure to, the new H1N1.
Fortunately, the severity of illness caused by H1N1 does not appear to have increased. Most people infected with H1N1 have symptoms similar to seasonal influenza. Though these symptoms are in no way pleasant, they are well tolerated by most healthy people.
SYMPTOMS OF H1N1
• Onset can be quite rapid
• Fever (usually high)
• Dry cough
• Tiredness and weakness (can be extreme)
• Sore throat
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Body or muscle aches
• Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (much more common among children than adults)
HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF
According to the CDC, H1N1 is thought to spread the same way as seasonal influenza. Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza. Sometimes, people may become infected by touching something, such as a surface or object with flu viruses on it, and then touching their eyes, mouth, or nose.
To protect yourself:
• Get enough rest and eat right.
• Wash you hands with soap and water often; or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
• Cough into your sleeve or a tissue and wash your hands after disposing of the tissue.
• If at all possible, stay away from people who are ill.
• Stay at home if you are ill to keep from giving your illness to other people. The CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• If you are in the recommended population, get vaccinated.
GROUPS RECOMMNDED TO RECEIVE H1N1 VACCINE:
• Pregnant women because they are at higher risk of complications and can potentially provide protection to infants who cannot be vaccinated.
• Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age, because younger infants are at higher risk of influenza-related complications and cannot be vaccinated. Vaccination of those in close contact with infants less than 6 months old might help protect infants by "cocooning" them from the virus.
• Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, because infections among healthcare workers have been reported and this can be a potential source of infection for vulnerable patients. Also increased absenteeism in this population could reduce healthcare system capacity.
• All people from 6 months through 24 years of age.
• Children from 6 months through 18 years of age because the CDC has seen many cases of H1N1 in children and they are in close contact with each other in school and day care settings, which increases the likelihood of disease spread.
• Young adults 19 through 24 years of age because the CDC has seen many cases of H1N1in these healthy young adults. They often live, work, and study in close proximity, and they are frequently a mobile population.
• Persons aged 25 through 64 years who have health conditions associated with a higher risk of medical complications from influenza.
Once the demand for vaccine for these groups has been met, vaccination for everyone ages 25 through 64 years will be recommended.
One difference between H1N1 and seasonal influenza is that adults over age 65 do not appear to have increased risk of complications from H1N1 as they do with seasonal influenza. For that reason, H1N1 vaccination for people over age 65 is not recommended at this time.
You need to seek medical care if you have severe illness or are at high risk of complications from influenza. Seek emergency medical care as follows:
In children, for:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish or gray skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Not waking up or not interacting
• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
In adults, for:
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms improve but they return with fever or worse cough
For more information visit www.springfieldhospital.org.