Preparing for Flu Season
By 1st Lt. Jessica Hammiel, 45th Medical Group
/ Published October 05, 2009
PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- As flu season nears and children return to school, the need for H1N1 community-based education and prevention is crucial. Novel H1N1 is spread from person to person primarily through coughing and sneezing.
Individuals can also transmit H1N1 through touching their mouth or nose with hands contaminated with the flu virus. The key symptoms of Novel H1N1 are cough or sore throat experienced with a temperature of greater than 100.5 degrees.
Other symptoms include body aches, headaches, runny noses, nausea or diarrhea.
Although most people will experience mild symptoms, some people are designated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be at higher risk for serious flu-related complications and should see a physician when ill with influenza-like symptoms:
* Pregnant women
* Children under 5 years of age
* Children under the age of 19 undergoing long term aspirin therapy
* Adults over 65 years of age
* Immuno-compromised individuals
* People with chronic medical conditions such as heart and lung disease, asthma or diabetes
* Individuals experiencing severe symptoms
There are steps recommended by the CDC that you can take to protect yourself and others from Novel H1N1:
1. Most importantly, stay at home when you are sick. Adults and children should not go to work, daycare, or school when they have a fever. Avoid going to public places like grocery stores, the BX, church or theaters when not feeling well. Sick parents should not drop their children off at daycare or schools. You should be without a fever for 24 hours before returning to work or school.
2. Cough or sneeze into a tissue - not into your bare hand. If a tissue is not available, sneeze or cough into your elbow.
3. Wash your hands frequently. Hands should be washed after coughing, sneezing or shaking hands. Hand washing should be done for at least 30 seconds using warm water and soap. Alcohol based hand sanitizer can be used if hands are not visibly dirty and hand washing is not possible.
4. Disinfect high traffic surfaces that could harbor the H1N1 virus. The H1N1 virus can live on surfaces for two to eight hours. Wiping down door knobs, computer key boards, etc with a disinfectant will kill the virus before it is spread.
5. Practice healthy habits. Good health habits reduce your chances of contracting H1N1 and lessen the severity of illness. Eat nutritious foods, stay hydrated, be physically active, get adequate rest and effectively manage stress.
More information about Novel H1N1 including details about severe symptoms and chronic conditions that contribute to serious flu related complications are available at the CDC website, www.cdc.gov/H1N1flu.