Swine flu question & answer

Should certain people take extra precaution against colds and flu?Some people can become seriously ill if they get the flu, this includes: pregnant women, infants, the elderly, people with HIV or cancer who may have weakened immune systems, and those with heart of lung disease. It is very important that these people take extra care to avoid close contact with other people who are sick, and contact their healthcare provider immediately if they do become sick. The pandemic phase level was raised to 5. What does that mean, should I be concerned? Phase 5 describes how clusters of cases have been found in several countries around the world and that the illness is likely to spread. This description does not reflect the current situation in Los Angeles County and does not describe the severity of illness. However, this change in phase level does stress the importance of doing your best to reduce the spread of illness in our communities: stay home if you are sick, wash your hands often, cover your coughs, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. How do I know if I have H1N1 (also known as swine flu)? The symptoms of this flu are the same as those for regular flu: fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, chills, headache, fatigue. Some cases also have had vomiting and diarrhea. How do I keep from getting this new flu? Prevention recommendations are the same as seasonal flu: wash your hands often, avoid close contact with people who are sick, avoid touching your face (eyes, nose and mouth). Should I avoid going out and going to events? No. There is no reason to avoid public gatherings or events. But as always, stay home if you are sick and practice healthy habits like washing your hands. Should I keep my child out of school? No. But children that are sick should stay at home until better - not just now, but always. What should I do if I have flu-like symptoms? Anyone that is sick (fever, cough, sore throat) should stay home - not just now, but always. If you are sick, do not return to work or school until one or two days after symptoms end. How do I care for someone with flu-like illness? The same as always: provide water or other fluids, and watch to see if symptoms get worse or do not resolve. Many basic over-the-counter medications can reduce fever and make people feel better. Precautions to limit the spread of flu-like illness when caring for someone are the same as what you should do for regular colds and flu. Should I buy medicines to treat flu? Antiviral medications should be taken only under the guidance of a medical doctor since medicines can have side effects, especially if they are not taken correctly. It is important to remember that most flu-like illness resolves without the need to see a doctor or to take medication (besides over-the-counter medicines to reduce fever and make you feel better). It is also important to remember that many other illnesses cause flu-like symptoms - and if your illness is not caused by the flu, flu antivirals will not make you better. Incorrect and overuse of antivirals is not only dangerous, but can also lead to further viral resistance. Should I wash surfaces to avoid getting sick with flu? Germs can spread when a person touches something that's contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth. Cleaning common surfaces can help kill germs and reduce infections, but it's not practical or possible to clean surfaces continuously - it is impossible to clean everything as well as have it stay clean all the time. The best way to avoid getting the flu does not include special cleaning procedures beyond normal. What are more serious signs of flu illness? While to date most new flu cases in the U.S. have been mild to moderate, and in general people with flu-like illness will get better without complications, seek medical care if you experience any of these more severe symptoms: For children, watch for: If flu-like symptoms do not get better after a few days or become worse; fast breathing or trouble breathing; bluish skin color; dehydration or unable to drink enough fluids; not waking up, not interacting, confusion, being disorientated; fever with a rash. For adults: Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen Sudden dizziness Confusion Severe or persistent vomiting

********** Published: May 8, 2009 - Volume 8 - Issue 3