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Jacques Williams-PascalÂ Â Â
What You Need to Know About "Swine Flu"
By Jacques Williams-Pascal, M.D., FACEP
Healthcare seems to be on everyone's mind these days. Your morning coffee and commute seem to go hand in hand with a daily update of the ever-changing landscape of "Healthcare Reform". As the summer comes to a close and as the kids return to school, what about the "Swine Flu"? The CDC (Center for Disease Control) expects the illness may continue and even be on the rise for some time.
The symptoms of H1N1 flu virus can be very confusing because they are very similar to the common or seasonal flu. They include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Everyone at some point has had these symptoms but that does not mean you have the H1N1 flu virus. People at higher risk of complications from H1N1 flu virus include those who are 65 and older, children under the age of 5, pregnant women, people of ANY age with chronic medical conditions (e.g., asthma, diabetes, or heart disease) and people who are immunosuppressed. Anyone in these categories should consider medical attention if any of these symptoms is exhibited.
Avoid Contact with Others
The best treatment for the H1N1 flu virus is prevention from getting it in the first place. If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with others as much as possible. The illness may last for a week or longer so it is recommended that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone unless making a visit to your medical provider. If you leave the house to seek medical care, remember that you are still extremely contagious so it is very important that you wear a facemask and wash your hands thoroughly. Remember that H1N1 flu virus can last on a hard surface for up to 48 hours if not properly cleaned. Children tend to be contagious for longer periods of time so plan to bring home schoolwork so they do not fall behind.
If you are in the high risk categories that were mentioned earlier, contact your health care provider or seek medical care at your nearest Urgent Care or ED (Emergency Department). Your health care provider will determine at that time whether you need to be tested or require treatment. Antiviral medications are available and work best if given early in the disease. Aspirin or aspirin-containing products should NOT be given to those 18 years and younger due to the risk of Reyes syndrome. Check all labels for aspirin before giving any medication to this age group.
A vaccine is currently being manufactured and is expected in mid-October. Because of its limited supply, the recommendation is that it be given only to the highest risk groups of people. Contact your health care provider for more information on the vaccine.
For more information on H1N1 flu virus go to www.cdc.gov/swineflu
Jacques Williams-Pascal M.D. FACEP is Medical Director of the Charles Drew University Urgent Care Clinic 323.249.2000. She can be reached at