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    « Portion Control | Main | Health Checkup »
    Sunday
    Nov082009

    H1N1 Swine Flu

    Let's take a few minutes to examine this whole H1N1 "swine" flu situation.  We were first introduced to the virus early in 2009 when a few cases trickled into the United States from Mexico.  At the time, the virus was touted as the next likely pandemic flu (similar to claims made about avian flu [H5N1] in 2007), and citizens were warned to be vigilant in preventative care practices such as handwashing and receiving vaccine treatments.  Despite a fairly insignificant H1N1 flu event in the spring, frightened citizens have flocked to their doctors en masse this fall to receive H1N1 vaccines to stave off potential infection.

    On October 23, President Obama declared a Swine Flu emergency, effectively freeing certain government agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Services to quickly bypass regulatory measures in order to rapidly respond to the emergency of H1N1.

    According to most information I have personally read on the H1N1 virus, it is not proving itself to be any more virulent than the typical seasonal flu that affects us every fall and winter.  What I've found interesting in my reading on the matter is that the CDC stopped testing for H1N1 flu in July 2009.  The reason for the apparent proliferation of the virus is due to the fact that since July potential cases of H1N1 have been attributed to anyone exhibiting flu-like symptoms, which might include seasonal flu, allegy-reaction illness, pneumonia or the common cold.  When information is reported to CDC from individual states, those reports include all "hospitalizations and deaths (either confirmed OR probable) resulting from all types of influenza, not just those from 2009 H1N1 flu" (Source: CDC).  So it basically works like this: the swine flu scare has been embellished by the fact that almost anyone who gets sick and is hospitalized with flu-like symptoms can be counted with the H1N1 cases.

    Seasonal flu accounts for some 36,000 deaths each year.  Media outlets report that there were 13,000 deaths in the US from seasonal flu alone between January and April 2009.  To date, reports of worldwide deaths from H1N1 flu come in at under 2000.  However, given the fact that there is no longer definitive testing of patients for the specific H1N1 strain, some of the deaths linked to H1N1 might actually be a result of seasonal flu and associated complications.

    In other words, H1N1 is a pussycat compared to the seasonal flu we experience every year.

    Call me a bit of a skeptic, but it appears to me that there is much ado about nothing with regard to H1N1.  It would appear that we have more to be concerned about with regard to seasonal flu than the H1N1 strain, yet it is the latter that seems to garner the most attention.  That millions of people are literally lining up in huge numbers to be vaccinated against both seasonal and H1N1 flus means that there's a LOT of money being pumped into the economy.  Flu vaccines generally run between $5 and $30 depending on where the shot is being administered. 

    Perhaps the H1N1 scare is being used to encourage the population to get a seasonal flu vaccine - a sort of "shot in the arm" to the economy.  Current seasonal flu vaccine numbers seem to support this idea - numbers of people being vaccinated are up over last year's numbers according to an MSNBC report.  If you are so inclined to get a vaccine for H1N1 or seasonal influenza, be sure to discuss all potential benefits and risks associated with the vaccine with your physician.

    Whatever the case may be, keeping yourself flu-free this winter (H1N1 or otherwise)
    isn't rocket science.  Here are some prevention suggestions from the CDC:

    • 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. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.*
    • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
    • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
    • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
    • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
    • Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other measures to keep our distance from each other to lessen the spread of flu.

    Of course, there's a lot to be said about the immune-boosting benefits of a healthy diet and exercise routine, and that is what Wo40 is here to help you with!

    Be well!

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