What risks are we taking and how can we protect ourselves from exposure to the H1N1 flu virus, most commonly known as Swine Flu? Nationwide the threat is still very real.
Currently the Centers for Disease Control says each week the they analyze information about influenza disease activity in the United States, and publish findings of key flu indicators in a report called “FluView”. When reviewing the indicators it was found that activity in influenza increased in prior weeks in the U.S.
The CDC also states visit to the doctors for influenza-like illnesses are higher than what is expected during this time of year and has increased over the last four weeks. Total influenza rates for adults and children are similar to or lower than seasonal influenza hospitalization rates depending on the age group, but are expected to be higher in summer months. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was low, but within the bounds of what is expected in the summer.
Eleven states ( Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee) and Guam are reporting widespread influenza activity at this time. Almost all of the influenza viruses identified were H1N1 influenza A viruses. Reports of widespread influenza activity in August are very unusual. The CDC says “these 2009 H1N1 viruses remain similar to the viruses chosen for the 2009 H1N1 vaccine and remain susceptible to antiviral drugs with rare exception.”
Since the World Wide Health Organization’s (WHO) declaration of a pandemic, the H1N1 virus has continued to spread, with the number of countries reporting cases H1N1 nearly doubling. The Southern Hemisphere’s regular influenza season has begun and countries there are reporting that the new H1N1 virus is spreading and causing illness along with regular seasonal flu viruses.
In the united States, significant H1N1 illness has continued into the summer, with localized and, in some cases, intense outbreaks occurring. The United States continues to report the largest number of H1N1 cases of any country world wide, however most people that become ill have recovered without requiring medical treatment. Given ongoing H1N1 activity to date, the CDC anticipates that there will be more cases, more hospitalizations, and more deaths associated with this pandemic in the United States over the fall and winter months. The H1N1 virus, in conjunction with regular seasonal flu viruses, poses the potential to cause significant illness with associated hospitalizations and deaths during the U.S. influenza season.
Those with flu-like illness should stay away from classes and limit interaction with other people (called “self-isolation”), except to seek medical care, for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever, without using fever-reducing medicines. Some people may not have a fever, but absence of fever does not mean absence of the flu. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Avoid touching your mouth nose and eyes as this spreads germs.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it has approved four vaccines against the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. The vaccines will be distributed nationally after the initial lots become available, which is expected within the next four weeks.”This approval is good news for our nation’s response to the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus,”said Commissioner of Food and Drugs Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D.”This vaccine will help protect individuals from serious illness and death from influenza.” As with any medical product, unexpected or rare serious adverse events may occur.