Concerns among healthcare providers, teachers, parents and teens are rising about a pandemic sweeping the nation: novel influenza A, also known as the H1N1 virus, or “the swine flu.” According to the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the H1N1 virus could cause up to 90,000 deaths and 2 million hospitalizations nationwide this winter. Since appearing in early April this year, the global swine flu has affected more than 1 million Americans and killed about 500.
Novel influenza A has infected thousands of people worldwide and is spreading rapidly every day. Because of the illness’ resistance to antibiotics and highly contagious nature, prevention is the best method of protection available. Hospitals and school systems have acknowledged their lack of defense against the virus, and hope to distribute a vaccination by mid-October.
To combat the H1N1 virus before it spreads, parents of children in Durham, Wake, and Orange counties are encouraged to acquire the regular influenza vaccination while waiting for the H1N1 vaccine. “The idea is that if kids are healthy and are trying to boost their immunity to seasonal influenza, hopefully they will be healthier to be able to withstand other types of influenza,” said Stephanie Willis, the health coordinator for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
Wake County Public Schools are not planning on shutting down schools unless the H1N1 virus affects a large percentage of students. Nan Medlin, LHS’s nurse, said, “To date, the plans are being made byWake County Human Services and Wake County Public School officials. As the vaccine becomes available, more plans will be firmed up, and the public will be made aware of how this will be organized.”
“As more info is made available, it will be publicized by the media and throughout the schools. Be on the look-out for these plans,” said Medlin. “Much of these decisions will be dependent on the amount and availability of the vaccine and the public’s cooperation toward prevention.”
A recent survey conducted by the National Nurses Organizing Committee reported that registered nurses feel unprepared to deal with the swine flu. Not only do 22% of all facilities do not have enough masks, 25% feel patients are not properly isolated and nurses at less than 45% of hospitals feel that they have not been adequately trained on H1N1 issues.
In light of these frightening statistics, healthcare officials are on the lookout for swine flu outbreaks, especially in what are considered “high risk” areas. People at a higher risk include patients of cardiac surgery, those with respiratory system illnesses, women who are pregnant, young children and teenagers.
When the Center for Disease develops and releases the vaccination to the public, they recommend that pregnant women or people who care for children under the age of six months should be high priority. Health care and medical personnel, people between the ages of six months and 24 years of age and adults 25 through 64 with chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems should also get the vaccination as soon as possible.
In addition to being vaccinated, Mike Stobbe, Associated Press Medical Writer, recommends using common sense and taking the usual precautions when dealing with a virus: wash your hands often, vaccinate yourself and your children early and avoid those who are sick.