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H1N1 info sessions held
Washing your hands often and covering coughs and sneezes are two ways you can prevent the spread of the flu, says a public health nurse.
Janie Van Gilder, the pandemic influenza educator for Columbus Public Health, showed Westgate area residents how to stop the spread of the flu virus. The four most important things people can do, she said, are to wash their hands often, cough or sneeze into their sleeve, keep surfaces clean and limit social contact to a distance of three feet.
“Hand washing is the biggest difference you can make in your life to prevent getting sick,” she told residents Sept. 2 at the first of four community gatherings on the Westside. The session was held at Parkview United Methodist Church. Other sessions are Sept. 8 at Hillcrest Baptist Church, Sept. 16 at Crossroads United Methodist church and Sept. 23 at Glenwood United Methodist Church. All sessions begin at 6 p.m.
“When I was little, as soon as we came in the door, we went straight to the bathroom to wash our hands,” she said, lamenting the fact that “it’s not a priority today.”
When sneezing or coughing, she said, the flu droplets extend about three feet.
“And we’re in a touchy-feely generation,” she said.
For further protection, after cleaning surfaces of dirt and grime, she recommended disinfectants, either using commercial product, or making it at home by using one quarter cup bleach to one gallon of water.
Meanwhile, residents can begin getting their flu shots to help lessen the spread of the flu.
These shots are for the seasonal variety of the flu. Shots for the H1N1 variety are not expected until late fall, and two shots will be needed three weeks apart, she said.
The body will build up immunity to the flu in two weeks, she said, when some people claim to get a shot and still get the flu. If you’re exposed to the flu between the time you get the shot and the immunity builds up, you’re likely to get the flu, she explained
The H1N1 virus has already been declared a pandemic, Gilder said, noting the declaration was made June 10 by the World Health Organization.
In pandemic flu, she said, “there is a new strain of Type A virus and it causes serious illness because there is little or no immunity to it and it spreads easily.”
This is the fourth pandemic in the past 100 years.
“It takes about four to six months to develop a vaccine against the flu,” Gilder said, noting that the H1N1 was first diagnosed in March in Mexico.
She expressed concern about holiday gatherings this year since the flu vaccine won’t be available until probably around November and the flu is so easily spread.
Her words of caution were to “stay home if you’re sick,” and to think of others and act responsibly.
While the seasonal flu traditionally strikes the young and the elderly, the H1N1 flu is being found in young people “because their bodies haven’t been able to build up immunity.”
“Pregnant women are the number one priority for the H1N1 flu shot,” she said, then listing infants, people with chronic medical conditions, children and health care providers who work directly with the patient.
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