Last night was a late night for my husband. He was working on a football game, crowded into a little production truck with lots of other people sharing those cramped quarters. It lasted even longer because of lightning delays. He was finally able to drag his tired body to bed around 2:30 this morning.
The dogs woke us around 8am, and as my husband went down the stairs to let them out, he started coughing. Over coffee, he explained that his throat didn't hurt, but felt irritated. "Swine FLU!" I joked. But it really is no laughing matter.
I work for a major university and before the fall semester began, memos were swirling around the offices about dealing with swine flu (the H1N1 virus). How professors should be lenient in their deadlines should students become ill; how offices needed to learn how to backup people who may be out for a week or more due to illness. Large canisters of antibacterial wipes were stationed around the building and lysol became the odor of the day.
Still, it felt a bit unreal. Like duck and cover drills of the fifties or bomb evacuation drills of the seventies. We go through the motions but never expect the threat to come to fruition.
Then people started getting sick. Several people from my workplace have actually been out with swine flu. Not people you'd expect, either. We have a couple of people with compromised immune systems (chemo, transplant surgery and the like), but I'm guessing that they are still vigilant in protecting themselves. No... the flu struck a woman in her late 20's (no kids), and a middle-aged man (no children at home). I've heard rumors about a couple of others, but haven't talked to them.
The vaccine finally makes it to town this week, but the doses are so few that it won't even put a dent in our population. And that is why practicing good hygeine and being smart about exposure is so important.
I got this information from http://www.flu.gov/. It's an excellent resource for finding out about H1N1 and has a self-diagnosis button as well, if you need to find out what all the symptoms are. From what I hear, doctors are no longer diagnosing swine flu, as in most cases it isn't much different from the regular flu and don't want to encourage a panic.
Prevention & Treatment
Get Vaccinated. Vaccination is the best protection against contracting the flu. You need two vaccines to be fully protected this year. The seasonal flu vaccine is different from the H1N1 (Swine) flu vaccine. The CDC is encouraging people to get both vaccinations. Get both vaccinations as soon as possible.
If you do contract the flu, talk to your doctor about antivirals. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaler) that can be used for prevention or treatment of flu viruses. If you get sick, antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and make you feel better faster. Two types of antivirals, Oseltamivir (TAMIFLU®) and Zanamivir (RELENZA®) may be effective against the H1N1 (Swine) flu.
Take these everyday steps to protect your health:
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
Stay home if you are sick until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100°F or
37.8°C) or signs of a fever (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®).
Stay home if you are sick for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.
If you must have close contact with a sick person (for example, hold a sick infant), try to wear a facemask or N95 disposable respirator.
The government website has lots of valuable information and updates, so please visit for a full rundown of the latest information.
If you have any suspicions at all that you are seriously ill, please go to the doctor. While an H1N1 dealth has not touched me personally, a friend of mine just lost one of her friends to this disease. She was a vibrant young woman by all accounts and yet H1N1 took her.
You cannot be too careful.