Tuesday Oct 20 2009
Do your part to reduce flu spread
By: Dr. Richard Burton, Guest Columnist
The pandemic H1N1 influenza virus (“swine flu”) is currently active in Placer County and is anticipated to circulate even more during the fall and into next year. This flu is spreading easily from person to person – some estimates predict that as many as 100,000 Placer residents could become infected within the next year. While it remains a relatively mild illness for most individuals, it can be quite disruptive to our daily lives. And H1N1 flu can result in more serious illness in those at higher risk for complications, including children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, persons with certain chronic medical conditions (such as lung or heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease), those with immunosuppressive conditions, and persons younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy. We are working directly with schools, health care, and other groups to be as well prepared as possible. We are asking for your assistance to reduce the spread of influenza in our county – this is the key to preventing H1N1 flu in yourself, your loved ones, and our community. The following recommendations to reduce the spread of the virus follow those most recently provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Anyone sick with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities, and should limit contact with other people. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then throw it away. Wash hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to avoid spreading germs. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Avoid sharing items such as food, drinks, and lip-gloss with others. And don’t forget to get your seasonal flu vaccine soon. If you develop symptoms of the flu, such as fever with cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, fatigue, diarrhea or vomiting, please stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, and limit your contact with others. The vast majority of people won’t need medical care and will recover at home without testing or antiviral treatment. Remember that aspirin should not be given to children or teen-agers who have the flu because it can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye’s syndrome. If you or a family member are at higher risk for complications, including children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, persons with certain chronic medical conditions (such as lung or heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease), those with immunosuppressive conditions, and persons younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy, you should contact your health care provider as soon as flu symptoms develop. Better yet, contact your health care provider now if you are in a higher risk group to discuss your level of risk and to develop a plan for what you should do if you get flu symptoms. Richard J. Burton, M.D., M.P.H. is the Placer County Health officer and department director. Mark Starr, D.V.M., M.P.V.M. Community Health, Clinics & Animal Services director contributed to this commentary.