HIN1 flu virus: The good, the bad and the ugly (continued)
In addition, a significant number of people who have been infected with this virus also have reported diarrhea and vomiting.
The H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe, but most people who have become ill have recovered without requiring medical treatment. However, there are a group of individuals considered at "high risk" of serious seasonal flu-related complications (including the H1N1 virus). This group includes persons with the following underlying conditions: asthma, diabetes, suppressed immune systems, heart disease, kidney disease, neurocognitive and neuromuscular disorders and pregnancy.
What happens if you believe you have contracted the H1N1 virus? First, stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick. If you are sick with flu-like illnesses, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone expect to get medical care or for other necessities.
If you are severely ill or are a high-risk for flu complications, contact your health care provider to determine whether flu testing or treatment is needed. Seek emergency medical care if you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, and/or flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever or worse cough.
In children, emergency warnings that need urgent medical attention include: fast breathing or trouble breathing, bluish or gray skin color, not drinking enough fluids, severe or persistent vomiting, not waking up or not interacting, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held, and/or flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever or worse cough.
There are some steps that can be taken to protect your health. First, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Second, wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. You should wash your hands for the same length of time that it takes you to sing "Happy Birthday" (i.e., 15 to 20 seconds). Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Lastly, try to avoid close contact with sick people and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
A short time ago, a vaccination to prevent the contraction of the H1N1 flu virus was discussed. Shipment of this vaccination is scheduled to begin mid-October. However, many of the details of the vaccine are still not available. If you are interested in the vaccination, please review the information at www.flu.gov and/or www.cdc.gov. In the meantime, it is best everyone take the above precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
This column is provided by the Richmond County Medical Society. Dr. Scafuri is an active member of the Society. He specializes in Infectious Disease and maintains a practice in West Brighton.