INFLUENZA: The Bare Essentials



By The Reverends Bill &
Nadine Martin, Co-Chairs, Episcopal Diocese of Arizona Emergency Preparedness Committee

 

Over
the past few months, we’ve seen a great deal of media coverage regarding
flu-like illnesses.  Although much
information is considered factual, a good bit is not or else it’s taken out of
context of what was originally stated by officials.  But indicators are that the H1N1 virus has
the potential to become the primary cause of a major worldwide flu-like
outbreak, adding to the seasonal flu virus we usually encounter (and get
immunized for) each fall.  In this
article, we are providing an update on influenza activity, vaccination,
symptoms, and prevention tips including tips for parents.

 

Update

Each
week, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) analyzes and
publishes information about influenza disease activity in the U.S.   During the week of October 4-10, 2009, visits
to doctors continued to increase and, overall, were higher than normal for this
time of year.  Also, total influenza
hospitalization rates for laboratory-confirmed flu are increasing and are
higher than what is normally expected. 
Forty-one states, including Arizona, are reporting widespread influenza
activity, and almost all of the influenza viruses identified so far are 2009
H1N1 influenza viruses.  In Arizona,
during the 2008-2009 influenza season (September 28, 2008-October 3, 2009),
1,684 confirmed H1N1 cases were reported with 320 deaths.  Most of these cases were in the age group 18
years and younger.

 

Vaccination

People
who should be vaccinated include pregnant women, those who live with or provide
care for infants younger than 6 months, health care and emergency medical
service personnel, people 6 months through 24 years of age, and people 25-64
years of age who are in high-risk groups. 
Two kinds of 2009 H1N1 vaccines are currently being produced:  the flu shot and the nasal spray vaccine.  The H1N1 flu
shot
is prepared in the same manner as the seasonal flu vaccine one takes
each year.  It is an inactivated vaccine
(containing killed virus) usually given in the arm.  It is approved for use in people 6 months of
age and older, including healthy people, those who have chronic medical
conditions, and pregnant women.  The nasal spray vaccine is made with live,
weakened H1N1 viruses that do not cause the flu.  It is approved for use in healthy people from
ages 2 years to 49 years.  The nasal spray vaccine is not recommended
for women who are pregnant.
 

 

Symptoms

Symptoms
include fever (note:  not everyone who
has flu will have a fever), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body
aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.  Check with your health-care provider if you
have questions.

 

General Prevention Tips

    Avoid close contact with
people who are sick.

    Stay home when you’re sick.  CDC recommends that you stay home for at
least 24-48 hours after
    your fever is gone.

    Cover your mouth and nose
when coughing or sneezing.

    Wash your hands often.

    Avoid touching your eyes,
nose, or mouth.

    Get plenty of sleep and
exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious
food.

 

One
question that comes up frequently in the church is “Is it safe to drink from
the common chalice?”  The answer,
unfortunately, is neither black nor white. 
Most scientists agree that the virus is spread through sneezing or
coughing.  So whether you can or cannot become infected by drinking from the common cup cannot be
answered with certainty.  So it’s a
personal “common sense” choice.

 

Tips for parents.  Get both the seasonal flu vaccine and the 2009
H1N1 vaccine for yourself and your child. 
If your child is sick, keep the
child at home
  from school, day care,
camp, or Sunday School, for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone.  (Note: 
fever should be done without
the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)  A
fever is defined as 100 degrees F or higher (37.8 degrees C).

 

The preceding
information is based on the CDC’s guidelines and is not intended to be a
substitute for your doctor’s advice
. 
It is not a comprehensive guide to seasonal flu or the 2009 H1N1 flu,
and data (such as number of reported cases) are updated frequently.  For more comprehensive information about
seasonal and H1N1 flu, go to CDC’s web sites (www.cdc.gov
and www.flu.gov).  There you’ll find links to other sites as
well.

Author: Nicholas Knisely

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...