Guest Column – Protect Yourself Against the Flu
You’ve heard about H1N1, swine flu, pandemic and seasonal flu. How do you make sense of all these? And, what should you really be concerned about?
Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It typically hits in fall and winter each year with a different strain, infecting 5-20% of the U.S. population – and causing some 36,000 deaths from flu-related causes. The most severely affected are the very young and elderly, as well as those with respiratory conditions and immune diseases (such as AIDS).
The 2009 H1N1 Influenza, also called “swine flu” even though people do not catch it from pigs, is a new, powerful variety of Influenza A virus. It was first detected in the US in April 2009. This virus is spreading from person-to-person worldwide, making it a “pandemic.” Young people – 6 months to 24 years old – have been the most affected by H1N1, though all age groups have experienced it.
People catch seasonal flu and H1N1 Flu mainly from infected droplets spread by coughing or sneezing. People also become infected by touching a surface or object with flu virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose. The symptoms for seasonal flu and H1N1 are similar, although H1N1 appears to cause greater cases of diarrhea and vomiting in all age groups, while seasonal flu causes this mostly in children. H1N1 also causes higher fevers. H1N1 and seasonal flu symptoms include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Coughing and sneezing
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle aches
Although the seasonal flu shot does not protect against the more serious H1N1 “Swine Flu,” infectious disease experts stress the importance of protecting against seasonal influenza in order to minimize those infections, particularly as patients are battling H1N1. It also can help reduce missed work days.
HCA-HealthONE is one company that provides free flu shots to its staff. This year HealthONE has asked every employee and medical staff member to get immunized against seasonal flu.
“Providing flu shots free [cost to the company is about $9 each] is a small price to pay to keep our staff and patients healthy. Research shows that the seasonal flu vaccine will cut the number of flu cases by 88 percent and reduce the number of sick days 41 percent,” said Roger Smith, vice president of Human Resources, HealthONE and HCA Continental Division.
HealthONE encourages the public to know the signs and symptoms of flu and take precautions against spreading the virus, particularly by getting vaccinated and practicing good hygiene:
- Cover nose and mouth with a tissue or arm (NOT hands) when you cough or sneeze.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you have flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides, except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible so you do not spread the flu.
Stay healthy! Learn more about how you can protect yourself, family, friends & co-workers at www.HealthONEcares.com. Be a HealthONE FAN on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @HealthONEsystem for news, free seminars & screenings, videos, photos, links & more!