Swine Flu? Here’s What to Do…
WASHINGTON - A busy, potentially deadly flu season is expected this fall as novel H1N1, the world's first flu pandemic in 41 years, resurges at the same time the seasonal flu hits.
Seasonal flu vaccine will be available soon, but a vaccine for novel H1NI, or swine flu, won't become available until mid-October. Health officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommend these precautions to help protect yourself and others from getting sick:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw away the tissue after use. Flu viruses are spread mainly through coughing or sneezing by people with influenza.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers, available in most supermarkets and drugstores, may be used when soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Though mainly spread through airborne respiratory droplets, the flu virus can survive on surfaces, like books and doorknobs, and remain infectious for two to eight hours. Touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose and mouth can spread the virus. Swine flu is not caused by eating pork.
- Develop a family emergency plan, including a supply of extra food, medicines and essential supplies.
- Eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods, including plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grain products. Also eat low-fat dairy products, lean meats, poultry, fish, and beans. Drink lots of water and scale back on salt, sugar, alcohol, and saturated fat. Exercise regularly and get rest.
- Employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with novel H1N1 can go to work as usual, monitoring their health and taking everyday precautions, such as hand washing.
- Try to avoid close contact or being face-to-face with those who are sick. "Swine flu parties," gatherings held for people to contract the virus from a sick person to build immunity, are not recommended.
- One adult should be designated, if possible, to care for a sick person. People at increased risk of severe flu illness should not be the designated caretaker, if possible.
- If close contact with a sick person is unavoidable, caregivers at increased risk of severe illness should consider wearing a facemask or respirator. Those who are sick should wear a facemask, if possible, in common areas at home or when seeking medical treatment to avoid spreading the virus.
- Bedside tables, bathroom surfaces, kitchen counters and toys for children should be wiped down with a household disinfectant.
- Linens, eating utensils and dishes used by people who are sick don't need to be cleaned separately but should not be shared before washing in the dishwasher or with soap. Caregivers should avoid "hugging" unwashed laundry and should wash their hands immediately after handling it.
- Household members should use paper towels for drying their hands, or their own, separate cloth towels.
- A sick household member should stay in a room separated from common areas of the house, such as a bedroom with its own bathroom if possible. The bathroom should be cleaned daily with household disinfectant.