I’m working at the health department this month and swine flu is certainly continuing to circulate in Jefferson County. See your doctor if you have fever > 100 with cough and/or sore throat. The only treatment are anti-virals (like Tamiflu) which do not cure swine flu but may lessen the severity of the illness or shorten the course of illness by 1-2 days. Some physicians are now even calling in these medicines for children with fever, cough and/or sore throat to avoid them having to wait in the waiting room at their office. Fortunately, thus far, most cases of swine flu have been fairly mild.
When you are swabbed for influenza at your doctor’s office, most can do a rapid test in their office to tell you if you have influenza but it must be sent to the state lab to determine if it is H1N1. Since 8/1/09, of specimens testing positive for influenza in AL, 99% have been confirmed novel H1N1. As of 8/27/09, Alabama has had 1,587 confirmed cases of novel H1N1 influenza (or swine flu).
There is no vaccine available for H1N1 yet. It is encouraged for all to get the seasonal flu vaccine when available. The H1N1 vaccine (separate from the seasonal flu vaccine) is scheduled to be available by mid-October but this will be given to high-risk patients first.
So what can you do? The most important preventive measure is personal hygiene. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water!! Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. (If you don’t have a tissue to cover your mouth, cough into the crook of your elbow.) Stay home from school or work if you are sick. Get the seasonal flu vaccine when available. Remember, vaccines work best when everyone gets them.
AL Department of Public Health
Brooke Uptagrafft, MD
Dr. Brooke is a family medicine doctor.