WHAT PARENTS SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE FLU Q. What is "Swine flu"? A. Pandemic H1N1/09 San Diego Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease caused by a strain of type A influenza viruses. This particular virus is a mixture of one strain of human flu, one of bird flu and two of swine flu. Seasonal influenza is bad enough, killing 36,000 Americans and hospitalizing 200,000 more in a typical year. With little or no immunity to this mixture of viruses, the Center for Disease Control estimates up to 40 percent of the U.S. population could be infected between now and next spring. Q. What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu in people? A. The symptoms of H1N1 in people are similar to those of a common (seasonal) flu. These include fever over 101 degrees, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting associated with H1N1 flu. Q. How serious is H1N1 flu infection? A. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu varies in severity from mild to severe. We worry most if your child has a chronic medical condition (e.g., chronic respiratory or heart problems). Q. How is H1N1 flu spread? A. The spread of H1N1 flu is spread the same way as seasonal flu, through close contact with an infected person?s coughing and sneezing. To date, there have not been any documented cases of H1N1 flu being spread to humans from pigs. There is a documented case of pigs being infected from a human who was working with the pigs. Q. Are there medicines to treat H1N1 flu? A. Yes. Antiviral drugs are available by prescription to fight against the flu by keeping flu viruses from reproducing within the body. Antiviral drugs work best if started within 2 days of symptoms. These will only be used in situations where your child is hospitalized or at significant risk of becoming seriously ill. Q, How long are people with H1N1 flu contagious? A. People with H1N1 influenza virus infection should be considered potentially contagious for as long as they are symptomatic, and/or up to one week following illness onset. Children (especially younger children) can be contagious for longer periods. Q. What can I do to protect me and my children from getting sick? A. The use of good health habits can help prevent the spread of germs that cause influenza: * Teach your child to cover his/her nose and mouth with a tissue or handkerchief when he/she coughs or sneezes. When done, throw the tissue in the trash. If a tissue is not immediately available, teach your child to cough into his/her sleeve (if possible) or at the very least, into his/her hand. * Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze and before eating. Dry your hands with a paper towel. If soap and water aren't available, give your child an instant hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. * Try to avoid close contact with sick people. * Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as this is how germs are spread. * When someone in the household is sick, use a disinfectant to sanitize commonly touched surfaces, such as door handles, faucets, remote controls, light switches, toilet handles, and bathroom and kitchen counters. Studies have shown that human influenza viruses can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours. * Routinely clean with soap and water any toys and objects that young children may put into their mouths. * When traveling, bring surgical face masks with you, and if the passenger sitting next you seems sick, put one on. Try to change seats if possible. Wipe down your airplane tray table and armrests with a disinfectant wipe. Consider a quick disinfecting of your hotel room. Rental cars can be rife with germs. Wipe down the steering wheel, door handles and gearshift with a disinfectant when you pick up the vehicle. * Shopping cart handles are crawling with germs. Use the disinfectant wipes provided by some stores to clean off the handles, and don't touch your face. Use a hand sanitizer as soon as you get back to your car. * In movie theaters, try not to touch the armrests with your hands. This is especially important if you're eating popcorn and have your hands to your mouth. Get vaccinated: This year, children above 6 months of age should be vaccinated for both Seasonal and H1N1 Flu. Seasonal flu shots should be available starting early October, while the H1N1 vaccine won't be ready until mid- to late October, with the first round of vaccinations given to pregnant women, young children and their parents, health care workers and non-elderly adults with chronic medical conditions. Children between 6 months and 9 years of age will require a second dose of H1N1, one month after the first dose. Q. What do I do if my child gets the flu? If you get the flu, current recommendations are that he/she stays home isolated from other people until he/she has been without fever for at least 24 hours. Since we know that some people are able to still spread the flu beyond the 24 hour fever free period, remind your child of the need to continue to wash his/her hands and cover his cough until all the symptoms are gone. You should also consider the following: * Fever reducers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. * Cough and cold medications are of limited benefit and will not make you better faster. In fact, over-the-counter preparations should probably not be used for children less than age 6 years. * Water and electrolyte drinks such as pedialyte (not sports drinks like Gatorade) should be used to keep your child hydrated. * Hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol, such as Purell, to kill viruses when soap and water aren't available. * Surgical masks with a rating from the FDA of at least N95 to help prevent spreading the flu. Masks need to be replaced often and disposed after use. Caregivers should consider wearing a surgical face mask when tending to a person with the flu. If the caregiver is high-risk (pregnant or has a chronic disease, for example), then the face mask should be an N95 respirator, which keeps out smaller droplets. One of biggest benefits of wearing any face mask is that it prevents you from touching your nose or mouth. Wash your hands immediately after removing a face mask. If the mask should become wet or soiled, discard it and use a new one. * If someone at home is sick, seek medical advice via telephone. Don't make a trip to the doctor's office or emergency room unless instructed to do so by your doctor. Ask your medical provider if you or your child are candidates for an anti-viral drug (Tamiflu or Relenza), which can make symptoms milder and end sooner. The drugs work best if started within the first two days of symptoms. These medications are being used only in patients who are particularly ill or at high risk for complications. High risk patients should also be placed on medication if a household contact develops influenza. Emergency warning signs requiring urgent medical attention include: * Fast breathing / labored breathing * Bluish lip, tongue, or skin color * Not drinking enough fluids/dehydration * Not waking up/not interacting * Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held For reliable flu information, consider cds.gov (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), sdcounty.ca.gov/hhsa (Health and Human Services Agency), calling 211 or the County's H1N1 Influenza line at (858)715-2250


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