Be prepared this flu season -- your life may depend on it what???????

Be prepared this flu season -- your life may depend on it

With the major debate in this country revolving around health care, we harken back to six months ago when our country was embroiled in mass hysteria over the swine flu (H1N1). News media outlets across the country reported daily on how many people had contracted and died from the virus, almost anyone who had a fever and was sneezing had been swabbed and was awaiting lab test results, and surgical masks were in high demand with a seemingly low supply.

But just as with any kind of frenzy of this sort, the truth was weeded out and, although the virus was and still is a concern, it appears it may not be quite as serious as it was being made out to be. Most people have moved on with their normal lives and have basically forgotten about the alleged apocalyptic pandemic that supposedly was going to kill so many.

Truth be told, we are happy that the panic is over, but at the same time, there is still an urgency to take care of ourselves and prevent the spreading of the swine flu, or any type of virus for that matter.

The reality is, the swine flu is still dangerous and contagious. Since the outbreak in April, of the 9,079 people who were hospitalized nationwide with the virus, 593 died, or one out of every 15 people, based on reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the county, two people have died, and five patients are currently in intensive care with the virus, according to statistics from the Ventura County Health Care Agency. Although the county has no new officially diagnosed patients, it doesn’t negate the fact that we need to be prepared and actively engage in preventive measures to make sure contagious viruses don’t spread.

The CDC recommends that all people cover their mouths and noses with a tissue when they cough or sneeze, or use their elbows instead of their hands when a tissue is not available. Good hand hygiene is essential — wash your hands as often as necessary. If you are sick, go home, and if you have a fever, stay there for at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever or signs of a fever, without the use of fever-reducing medicine. Surfaces and items that are likely to have regular hand contact, including phones, desks, door knobs, keyboards and pens, should be kept clean and be wiped off with cleaning agents.

Local health experts are also recommending getting vaccinated this season, more so now than before. Everyone is encouraged to get the seasonal flu vaccine in the hopes that it will improve our bodies’ ability to fight off the symptoms of H1N1. The CDC expects a swine flu vaccination to be available this fall for those who are the most susceptible, including pregnant women and persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years.

While keeping a clean environment may seem like common sense, we often overlook the value in it. Especially when it comes to personal hygiene, although it may seem childish to do the “Dracula” pose — shoving your face into your elbow when you feel a sneeze coming — it is better to look silly then to get someone else sick. Also, don’t opt out this year when it comes to getting the seasonal flu vaccine — remember, it is not only yourself you are putting at risk if you catch this deadly virus.

St. John’s Regional Center and St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital, in a joint effort with Ventura County Public Health, will offer free seasonal flu shot clinics, beginning this month. For more information and locations, call 988-2865. For relatively inexpensive flu shots, contact your local pharmacies or grocery stores for availability

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