Don't Get Swine Flu: Avoiding H1N1 Swine Flu

According to most resources, the H1N1 swine flu is set to return this coming 2009-2010 flu season with a vengeance. 600 people have already died in the United States from swine flu, and the number is sure to rise by next summer. Swine flu is contagious (virulent) although no more deadly than any other flu - but that doesn't mean you want to get H1N1!

Vaccines are controversial, but effective.  Getting the flu vaccine, for both swine flu and the “regular” seasonal flu, will keep you and your family safe.  But before you get the vaccine (which is not yet available for everyone), and even after you get the vaccine (to prevent other diseases) hand washing is definitely the best way to prevent the flu.

If you don't want to catch swine flu, your first, best, and most useful line of defense is to WASH YOUR HANDS. Your mother was right, clean hands are important. Washing your hands every time you use the bathroom is a convenient way to ensure that your hands are getting clean enough.

If you work in a big office or take public transit, or are exposed to the general public in the course of your job, then wash your hands as often as you can to prevent getting swine flu. As a general rule, wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom, and after your lunch break.

Carry hand sanitizer with you, because hand sanitizer is nearly as effective as removing the H1N1 swine flu virus as hand washing. (It’s not 100% as good as hand washing, but it’s better than nothing!)

How To Wash Your Hands

Hand washing is your best defense against influenza, both swine flu and seasonal influenza, as well as... pretty much every other communicable disease!  To ensure that you are washing your hands properly, follow these instructions:

  1. Lather up with a good deal of soap, using warm (not hot) water. The temperature of the water doesn’t kill germs, and the hotter the water, the harder it is on your hands.
  2. Turn off the tap and scrub your hands well for 30 seconds – or for as long as it takes you to sing “Happy Birthday.” Be sure to get between your fingers and over the tops of your hands, not just your palms.
  3. Now rinse and rejoice!

Get A Seasonal Flu Shot

Early indications are that the H1N1 flu vaccine will be available in October 2009, but supplies may not be sufficient for everyone at first. Don’t panic! Get a regular flu shot, even if you can’t get an H1N1 flu shot. H1N1 is just a flu like any other strain, and you might as well get protected against the rest while you’re at it.

A seasonal flu shot will protect you from all of the other strains of influenza, which can be just as dangerous as swine flu. Although Obama has declared a national emergency due to the swine flu, other strains of flu can make you sick, too! And rest assured they will be making the rounds this season.

You can get more than one seasonal flu shot, and some high risk populations are urged to get two – one at the start of flu season, and one near the end. This is overkill for most of us, but you can hedge your bets by getting a “regular” flu shot now, and a flu shot containing H1N1 vaccine later in the season.

If you are in a high risk category, be sure to contact your doctor and explain your situation. They may be able to prioritize your care, to ensure that you get an H1N1 shot.

President Obama on Swine Flu Pandemic

Get A Swine Flu Vaccine Shot

As I write this, the swine flu vaccine is being released in limited amounts, for high risk populations only. If you have young children, are over the age of 60, or have other health factors (such as a compromised immunity) then you should consult your doctor about getting the swine flu vaccine. The same goes for health care providers, day care workers, and parents with small children.

Some people are concerned about the mercury (thimerosal) which is in the swine flu vaccine. The truth is, you will get about 1,000 times more mercury if you take an antacid or eat a tuna sandwich! The mercury is so tiny that it is not of any concern, and certainly far less concern than getting the flu.

You may think “I’m healthy, I’ll risk the flu.” But remember that the flu spreads because people catch it! Every person who gets infected with the swine flu will pass it on to other people. That is how contagion works. So think beyond your own health to the health at others. What if you passed your flu on to someone who died of it? How would you feel?

All doctors agree, the swine flu vaccine is necessary, and for the greater good.

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