H1N1 is making a comeback this flu season. Originally referred to as swine flu, H1N1 is a form of influenza A virus that was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in 2009. While children, seniors, and those with existing health problems are typically most at risk when it comes to the flu, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), warns that this time around this particular strain of influenza is affecting young and middle-aged adults ages 18-64 in increasing numbers.
The CDC is urging everyone, six months or older, who hasn’t already received a flu shot, to do so. The 2013/2014 vaccine protects against several strains of influenza including H1N1.
In its early stages, influenza can often be mistaken for the common cold. Symptoms can come on quick and include fever, chills, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, cough, sore throat, congestion, runny nose, and in children, vomiting and diarrhea.
Per the CDC, only the following, more severe symptoms warrant a trip to the emergency room: difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, repeated and consistent vomiting. A complete list of emergency warning signs including those for infants and children can be found on the CDC’s website.
Recovering from the flu can take from a few days to up to two weeks. In some cases the flu can lead to even more serious complications such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Anything you can do to prevent yourself or others from contracting the flu is worth the effort.
Flu Prevention Tips
In addition to getting a flu shot, here are some things you can do to prevent yourself and others from getting sick.
Steer clear of people you know are sick. Keep your distance when interacting with people in general and instruct your children to do the same.
Limit the time you spend in public places such as shopping malls and grocery stores. Avoid going to the hospital unless it’s truly an emergency.
Disinfect. Keep a bottle of antibacterial in your car and disinfect your home and work environment frequently.
Wash your hands with soap and warm water regularly, especially after going to public places like shopping malls, public bathrooms, schools.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
De-stress. Stress weakens the immune system increasing the chances of an infection taking hold. Get a massage, take a warm bath, do some yoga-whatever it takes to relax your mind and body.
Dress warmly. Retaining your core temperature helps shore up your immune system to keep it fighting at an optimal level.
Take care of yourself: eat right (lots of fresh fruits and vegetables), exercise, stay hydrated and get plenty of sleep.
Stay at home if you are sick, so that you don’t spread the germ to others. Keep children home from school so that they don’t spread the flu to other kids.
Cover your mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing.
The flu season peaks in January and February and can last as long as May. A study published in 2012 estimates between 151,700 and 575,500 deaths worldwide as a result of the 2009 H1N1 outbreak. Let’s all do our part to keep those numbers way less in the coming months.