Thursday, November 12, 2009

Emergency Preparedness and H1N1

H1N1, Swine Flu, its everywhere these days. What is good information and what is bad? Is the vaccine safe? Where can I get it? How can I tell if I have H1N1? What is the big concern now when seasonal flu impacts so many Americans each year?

These are all questions that we have received over the last few months as the H1N1 virus has picked up speed and is infecting millions of Americans. The truth is that right now no one is really looking for H1N1 specific flu unless you are hospitalized. Early studies and tests have shown that 99.9% of the flu circulating in the country right now is H1N1. Since it costs state laboratories so much to subtype for this specific virus, health authorities are assuming that if you have the flu, chances are, it’s H1N1. So while you will not know specifically if you have H1N1, you can make that assumption when it comes to caring for yourself and your family.

So what do you if you get sick with flu? Start with good hygiene such as washing hands well and often; stay home or keep your kids home if you have a fever or cough; be especially attentive to washing hands and disposing of tissues and staying away from others to prevent spread. Most people have not needed medical care and have been able to recover at home. There are some however, who are more likely to get flu complications and they should talk to a health care provider about whether they need to be examined if they get flu symptoms. This includes, pregnant women, children under the age of 2 and those with chronic medical conditions. Eating right, getting good rest and regular exercise will also help you stay healthy.

Although many people have strong opinions about vaccines, all data indicates that vaccines are a safe effective way to prevent disease. But why get a shot if this flu virus is no worse than the seasonal flu? First off this flu is targeting younger, healthier adults and children at an alarming rate, similar to the 1918 pandemic that killed millions. Second, the seasonal flu kills 36,000 people in the U.S each year; if we try to minimize H1N1 by comparing it to the seasonal flu we are minimizing the loss of 36,000 lives.

Jefferson County Public Health has distributed nearly 35,000 doses of vaccine to our high risk community members via special clinics and distribution to healthcare providers and emergency workers. Call your healthcare provider or check the Immunize Colorado Website for vaccine clinics in your county. Jefferson County residents are also asked to attend one of our school located clinics if they are unable to access vaccine through their provider. Please see:

The 2009 H1N1 influenza virus will impact your community in some way, especially since the spread of seasonal flu has not yet kicked up. Think seasonal flu times two, except now we are watching a different age group (children) being most affected. This virus spreads very easily and it is still possible that it will combine with another flu virus that have a much higher mortality rate creating more deaths and more illness. Working together we can slow the spread and reduce the chances of a stronger, deadlier flu strain appearing in the spring or next fall.

Stay healthy, stay informed, and visit our website for more information.

Jody Erwin, Emergency Response Coordinator

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