Seasonal and H1N1 Flu Overview
President Obama has declared the H1N1 flu outbreak a national emergency.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the United States and director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, joins The Doctors via satellite from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia to provide the most up-to-date information about the seasonal and H1N1 flu virus.
"We're seeing a lot of flu all around the country," Dr. Schuchat reports, "especially for this time of year; unprecedented levels of disease for this time of year. Of course, that's because this is a strain that people haven't seen before, so all of us really are susceptible."
Eighty-six children have died so far from H1N1 flu in America alone. "The numbers, unfortunately, continue to climb," Dr. Schuchat continues. "In most seasons, we only have about 40 or 50 kids who die from flu; we don't know how many more will, and of course, we're doing as much as we can to keep that number down."
Inside the CDC
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the first line of defense against infections and chronic diseases in the United States. E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork goes inside the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia for the latest H1N1 update from the director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas Frieden.
• 88 percent of H1N1 flu deaths have occurred in people under the age of 65
• 53 percent of H1N1 hospitalizations are people under the age of 25
• A disproportionate amount of pregnant women are affected by H1N1
• H1N1 flu can lead to viral or bacterial pneumonia, which can be fatal
• A flu virus can survive on surfaces up to eight hours, which is why it's so important to wash your hands often
"There's no way to predict who is going to get a severe case and who is not," pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says.
"Don't panic," Dr. Travis says. "The reason we're making this sound so serious is because kids are dying, pregnant women are dying, and that is why we urge you to talk with your doctor about getting the vaccine. We can prevent all these deaths if people get vaccinated."
Who's at Risk for the H1N1 Virus?
• Children ages 6 months to 24 years
• Pregnant wome
• Health care workers
• People with chronic health conditions
Chronic Health Conditions:
Certain medical conditions place people at greater risk for the flu, so if you have any of the following conditions, consider getting both the seasonal and H1N1 flu vaccine:
• Heart or lung disease
• Kidney disease
• Morbid obesity
• Sickle-cell anemia
• Cerebral palsy
• Muscular dystrophy
Symptoms of Seasonal and H1N1 Flus
Both seasonal influenza and the H1N1 flu can have the following symptoms:
• Dry cough
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Muscle aches and pains
In addition, the H1N1 flu often has:
• Stomach upset
Tamiflu and Relenza, extremely effective antiviral drugs, can be taken to reduce the duration and severity of the disease. The medications are most successful when taken within 48 hours of the onset of the flu, and symptoms often resolve in 24 hours.
Many people will recover from a flu without treatment, but if you or a loved one seem to be get better and then get worse, be sure to seek immediate medical treatment. This turn of events could indicate a secondary infection such as pneumonia.
Caution: Some unscrupulous characters will try to sell Tamiflu and other medicines purported to treat the H1N1 flu over the Internet. There is no way to verify the safety and validity of these products. Only take medicine prescribed and given to you by your doctor.
If your child has a confirmed case of the H1N1 virus, he or she will not need to get the vaccine, as his or her body will already be producing antibodies to combat the virus.
If you're breastfeeding and get sick, continue nursing, Dr. Jim advises. "You're going to produce antibodies against that illness, and you're going to give those antibodies to your baby, which will help the baby fight the illness too," he adds.
Caution: Never give aspirin to children.
For more information on flu warning signs, visit www.flu.gov.
Pregnant Women and the Flu
"You're at risk [for flu] when you're pregnant because your immune system is supporting two people," OB/GYN Dr. Lisa Masterson explains. "Your cardiovascular system is overloaded, and the blood volume is increased. Pregnant women need to be treated right away with anti-viral medications; they're not going to hurt the baby. We need to be very aggressive with pregnant women and the swine flu."
"It's not a new vaccine," Dr. Schuchat adds. "It's just a different strain being put in the [traditional] vaccine. We think that it should really protect pregnant women, who, unfortunately, have been getting very sick from the virus."
Watch a special report from affiliate station KHOU-TV in Houston, Texas on pregnant women and the H1N1 vaccine.
Learn more about pregnancy and the flu vaccine.
Steps to Prevent Getting the Flu
• Wash your hands often
• Use anti-bacterial wipes and gels with 60 percent alcohol content
• Don't touch your eyes, mouth or nose unless your hands are clean
• Take vitamins
• Eat healthily
• Keep your sugar intake below 100 grams per day (approximately two sodas' worth) and minimize alcohol consumption. Excessive sugar and alcohol intake can suppress and impede your immune system.