Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Preventing the spread of H1N1

Public health officials are preparing for the onset of seasonal flu and the novel H1N1 flu virus by beginning preparations in force, earlier than expected. Health officials predict an early onset of seasonal flu this year.

The H1N1 vaccine is not expected to be available until mid-October as clinical trials are continuing. The Department of Defense has procured 2.7 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine for and will be a phased distribution beginning with the highest-risk populations, within military forces, DOD civilians and critical contractors. Primary priority groups within the DOD will consist of deployed forces, ships afloat, high risk healthcare workers and mass training areas (i.e. Boot Camp/Basic Training, Service Academies). The secondary group will be critical personnel followed by all other personnel.

Those identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as being at highest risk for both types of flu and encouraged to receive vaccines include:

Healthcare workers.
Pregnant women
People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age.
Persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years
People 25 to 64 with chronic health disorders or compromised immunity.

Seasonal flu vaccine involves one injection. H1N1 vaccine will require two injections 21 to 28 days apart. Health department officials suggest taking seasonal flu vaccines as early as possible, given the potential for an early start to the flu season this year.

Influenza is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people.

Take everyday actions to stay healthy
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.

Develop a family plan as a precaution. This should include stocking up on everyday items like foods and medicines as well as facemasks, alcohol-based hand rubs and other essential supplies.

Department of Defense Military Treatment Facilities will provide more information as it becomes available and will announce when the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccines are available.

For more information you can visit www.dod.mil/pandemicflu, www.flu.gov or www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu

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