To live well, you need to prepare for the H1N1 and seasonal flu this year.

Saint Mary’s Regional Health System and community partners ask the River Valley as a whole to take a pro-active stance against the spread of seasonal and H1N1 influenza and other infections. While clean hands are the best protection against spreading germs and preventing infection, it is also important to always cover your sneeze or cough, properly care for wounds and disinfect commonly touched hard surfaces. Ask everyone around you to follow these guidelines, too.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, influenza (“flu”) is a contagious disease caused by the influenza virus. It spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat of others. Anyone can get the flu, but rates of infection are highest among children. For most people, it lasts only a few days. It can cause fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches and fatigue. Some people get much sicker. Influenza can lead to pneumonia and can be dangerous for people with heart or breathing conditions. It can cause high fevers and seizures in children. On average, 226,000 people are hospitalized every year because of influenza and 36,000 die – mostly elderly.

The influenza vaccine can prevent influenza. It is recommended for anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with influenza or spreading influenza to others. An individual may pass the influenza virus on to others before symptoms appear – most adults will shed the virus at least 24 hours prior to the onset of symptoms. Because flu viruses are always changing, influenza vaccines are updated every year. Annual vaccinations are recommended.

The Pope County Drive-Thru Mass Vaccination Clinic will be held on Friday, October 30 at the Pope County Fair Grounds from 7am to 4pm. The clinic planners have been informed by the state to plan on administering both the seasonal and H1N1 vaccines at the drive through. If the supply of the H1N1 is limited it will only be administered to the high risk groups (1) pregnant women, (2) children, then (3) Health care workers. Vaccines will be free to the public.

With the news swirling with reports of seasonal and new 2009 H1N1 flu in our schools, universities and workplaces, preparing now for the possibility of an outbreak is critical. However, there are some bright spots in recent flu news:

A study by University of Maryland virologist reports that the H1N1 is unlikely to recombine with the seasonal flu virus. The study, reported in the online journal PloS Currents, eases fears that the pandemic H1N1 influenza virus will recombine with seasonal flu to mutate into a more lethal form.

Roche Pharmaceuticals, the maker of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, reports that the drug is fully effective against the 2009 H1N1virus.

CNNhealth.com has reported results of testing which indicates that one dose of the H1N1 vaccine will confer immunity. Original thought was that two doses of the vaccine would be necessary to provide resistance. Results of the study were reported in The New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday, September 10.

Good news aside, the history of this virus makes it likely that this flu season will be a record breaker.