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Fighting the flu

 

Doris Keen, of Medina, Tenn., gets a flu shot from Michelle Miles, a state-certified immunization pharmacist, at Walgreens on Fifth Street North in Columbus. Keen was in Columbus to watch a theater group perform at Mississippi University for Women. Miles is from Columbus.

Doris Keen, of Medina, Tenn., gets a flu shot from Michelle Miles, a state-certified immunization pharmacist, at Walgreens on Fifth Street North in Columbus. Keen was in Columbus to watch a theater group perform at Mississippi University for Women. Miles is from Columbus. Photo by: Kelly Tippett

 

Jason Browne

 

Local medical establishments don''t know when the H1N1 vaccine will arrive in Columbus, nor are they worried. 

 

Despite a clear presence of swine flu, local doctors are confident conventional methods of flu prevention and treatment are sufficient to battle the virus. 

 

Dr. Keith McCoy, a seven-year emergency room physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, says the hospital has seen an approximate 20 percent increase in respiratory illness in recent months. He says 10 percent of those cases are H1N1. 

 

Likewise, Dr. Jason Skiwski with the Children''s Health Center in Columbus, reports "lots of kids coming in positive for Type A flu, which is what swine flu is." 

 

Still, neither doctor is concerned that the federal Center for Disease Control and Mississippi Department of Health are releasing early forms of the H1N1 vaccine strictly to first responders and medical personnel. 

 

"It''s just a matter of how much (vaccine) they can produce. The early rounds go out to those people who might come in contact or spread (H1N1), then to the general public," said McCoy. 

 

Christina Brown, marketing director at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, says Mississippi has done a good job placing timely orders for the vaccine. Yet, she says shipments for the general public may not be released by MDH for up to a month. 

 

Skiwski says that''s not a problem for the average patient. The doctors agree a normally healthy person can fight the flu off with over-the-counter medication, rest and hydration. 

 

In fact, Skiwski says he''s witnessed a decrease in the number of swine flu cases, and the H1N1 vaccine would have been most useful a month ago. 

 

Now, he says only individuals with respiratory problems, such as asthma, heart problems or immune deficiencies, should concern themselves with receiving the vaccine. 

 

McCoy has also seen a return to normal in the emergency room. 

 

"The last two weeks we''ve kind of settled back down to normal pace. The volume of (flu related) illnesses has decreased," said McCoy. 

 

Officials at Oktibbeha County Hospital in Starkville have chosen not to put a percentage on the number of patients exhibiting swine flu due to strong similarities shared with other strains of flu. However, Kim Roberts, employee health manager at OCH, says swine flue is likely the case for many patients as seasonal flu has not yet struck in full force. 

 

The West Point Children''s Clinic reports treating just three to four total cases of swine flu. 

 

The only way to know the difference between swine flu and normal seasonal flu, according to McCoy, is through medical testing. Both produce head and body aches, fever and coughing. He says more diarrhea symptoms are associated with H1N1. 

 

Flu-fighting anti-viral agents are available to the public, but McCoy says doctors are prescribing them cautiously so as not to flood the population and give H1N1 a greater opportunity to develop resistance. Therefore, he says those agents are typically prescribed to patients who need to kick the flu quickly, such as children under 2 years old, the elderly and pregnant women. 

 

Even without the vaccine in hand, Brown says local hospitals are equipped and prepared to handle an unexpected outbreak of influenza. 

 

All health officials recommend proceeding with seasonal flu vaccination. 

 

 

 

Facts about vaccination 

 

Getting Vaccinated 

 

     

     

  • The state Health Department is now making 2009 H1N1 flu nasal spray vaccine available to hospitals in Mississippi for protection of health care workers. In the coming weeks, MSDH will be receiving more shipments of swine flu vaccine in the form of nasal spray and injections, and begin providing vaccinations for specific groups, followed by the general public. 

     

  • In the meantime, the Health Department advises all to have a seasonal flu shot, which are now readily available throughout the state. 

     

 

 

 

 

Who will receive vaccinations first 

 

     

     

  • Initial vaccination efforts will focus on health care workers, pregnant women, students, children six months through 24 years old, and adults 25 through 64 who have health conditions that place them at greater risk of serious complications from swine flu. Once vaccinations have been offered to these priority groups, vaccination will open to the general public. 

     

 

 

 

 

Where you can get swine flu vaccinations 

 

     

     

  • The state Health Department will be distributing swine flu vaccine to both public and private providers. That means you should look for vaccinations to be available at county health departments; retail outlets such as pharmacy chains, and grocery and discount stores; schools and universities for students; and private doctors or other private health care providers. 

     

  • More specific public vaccination sites will be listed at the department''s Web site, www.msdh.ms.gov, when more information becomes available. 

     

 

 

 

 

Those at risk 

 

     

     

  • Swine flu can affect anyone, but pregnant women; children younger than 5 years old; and anyone with chronic heart or lung problems, including asthma, are most at risk of complications.  

     

 

 

 

 

If You Are Sick 

 

     

     

  • If you have symptoms of influenza (fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue), contact your doctor. Your medical provider can best advise you on actions to take, and whether an office visit is needed. All forms of influenza are contagious, so if you are sick, stay home to protect others from illness. 

     

  • To date, symptoms of swine flu in the U.S. have been mild. However, the chronically ill, the very young, pregnant women and seniors can be at greater risk for serious illness. Swine flu responds well to antiviral medication, which can reduce the severity and duration of the flu when taken at the onset of symptoms. 

     

  • Do not use aspirin for fever with children or teenagers 18 years of age or younger. Aspirin with viral infections can cause Reye''s syndrome, a life-threatening illness. Products which contain aspirin include Alka-Seltzer, Anacin, Ascriptin, BC Powder, Bufferin, Excedrin, Kaopectate, Maalox Total Stomach Relief, Pamprin, Pepto-Bismol, Vanquish and YSP. Check labels carefully, and do not use these products or others that contain aspirin. For fever in those 18 and under, use a non-aspirin product such as Tylenol (acetaminophen). 

     

 

 

 

 

Protecting Yourself 

 

     

     

  • 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 to prevent the spread of germs. 

     

  • Avoid close contact with those who are ill 

     

  • To protect others, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. 

     

  • If you get sick, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. 

     

    Source: Centers for Disease Control, Mississippi State Department of Health 

     

 

 

 

 

ON THE WEB 

 

     

     

  • Mississippi State Department of Health: www.msdh.ms.gov 

     

  • Federal swine flu information: www.flu.gov 

     

 

 

 

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