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No large flu outbreaks in Lawrence County

Seasonal flu vaccinations will be available at the Ironton City Health Department next Thursday, Oct. 1 and at the Lawrence County Health Department in early October But vaccinations for the H1N1, or so-called “swine flu” may still be a few weeks away, local health officials said.

“The only things we’ve heard is possibly mid-October,” Fred Schaefer, deputy registrar for the city health department, said.

Local health officials said the incidence of H1N1 has been rare and complications rarer still.

“We have had some confirmed cases of H1N1 in Ironton/Lawrence County,” Debbie Fisher, R.N., Lawrence County Emergency Response coordinator, said. “All cases have been fairly mild, and all recuperated quickly and fully.”

Symptoms for H1N1 influenza are similar to seasonal influenza: fever, cough or sore throat, body aches, runny or stuffy nose, headache, chills and fatigue. Vomiting and diarrhea are sometimes seen with H1N1 influenza, but are not seen with seasonal influenza.

“I know people are worried but keep in mind, it’s still ‘the flu’ and it has many of the same symptoms as the seasonal flu. The treatment is the same. The exception is that the H1NI often has vomiting and diarrhea. But generally it’s a whole lot milder,” Fisher said.

She pointed out that 36,000 American die each year from effects of the seasonal flu while only 538 people in the U.S. have died from swine flu.

She said she thinks perhaps swine flu strikes more fear because it is often discussed as being a pandemic event.

According to U.S. Centers For Disease Control, most people who have contracted H1Ni have not needed medical care.

Those who seem to have the most complications from influenza (and therefore need to contact their medical providers if they suspect they have flu) are children under 5 years of age (particularly those under 2 years of age), pregnant women, and people who have underlying health problems, for example, asthma, other respiratory diseases including COPD, diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, immuno-compromised, neurological and neuromuscular diseases, etc.

How many cases has Lawrence County had thus far?

There may not be a definite answer, Fisher said. State labs have made changes in when they perform H1N1 tests.

Effective Aug. 5, ODH lab is testing only hospitalized patients who have influenza-like illness or are part of a cluster being investigated, she said.

H1N1 flu warning signs requiring medical attention:

In children:

Fast breathing or trouble breathing

Bluish skin color

Not drinking enough fluids

Not waking up or not interacting

Being so irritable that the child does not

want to be held

Flu-like symptoms improve but then

return with fever and worse cough

Fever with a rash

In adults

Difficulty breathing or shortness

of breath

Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

Sudden dizziness

Confusion

Severe or persistent vomiting

Steps to take to prevent spread of flu:

Wash your hands! This can’t be stressed enough. It is the single most effective way to stop the spread of disease. CDC recommends washing hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.

Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw the tissue away, and wash your hands. Better yet, cough or sneeze into your sleeve to prevent the spread of disease!

Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.

Stay home and away from others as much as possible when you are ill. Don’t go to work, school, shopping, etc. Don’t send sick kids to school or day care. CDC recommends staying home (except to seek medical care) until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of fever reducers.

Get a flu shot! In fact, get 2 flu shots this season! Seasonal flu shots are very effective in protecting us against flu and helping us stay healthy. It cannot protect against H1N1; therefore, this season we will need a seasonal flu shot and an H1N1 flu shot. Seasonal flu shot clinics will be announced soon; H1N1 vaccine should be arriving in mid-October.