Preparing Adults and Children for a Flu Season Starring H1N1

November 2, 2009

clinical excellenceFloyd County undoubtedly will be among the communities worldwide impacted by the expected pandemic of the H1N1, or “swine” flu this winter. Government agencies, with help from Floyd Memorial physicians, are preparing to care for the sick.

“The good news is it’s treatable and you can prevent it with a vaccine,” said Thomas Harris, MD, FACEP, a Floyd Memorial emergency medical physician and the Floyd County Health Officer.

David McCay, MD“Most patients will do very well. Usually you can call your provider and talk over the phone if you don’t need special treatment. Reassurance and close monitoring are very important. Unfortunately, this flu virus may become more virulent in colder weather.”

David McCay, MD
Board Certified Pediatrician and Internist
Floyd Memorial Medical Group- New Albany

H1N1 is a new influenza virus spreading from person to person worldwide, just like the seasonal flu virus. It was originally referred to as “swine flu” because early tests showed many of the genes were similar to viruses that normally occur in pigs. Further study showed the virus additionally has bird and human genes.

H1N1 Targets a Different Population

harris“If you are sick with H1N1, stay home for 24 hours after the fever goes away. A lot of people aren’t used to that, but a person is still shedding viruses until then.”

Thomas Harris, MD, FACEP
Board Certified Emergency Medical Physician
Floyd Emergency Medical Associates
Floyd County Health Officer

Dr. Harris said recent predictions are that as many as one in two people will contract the virus. The virus seems to particularly affect school-age children, pregnant women and young adults with chronic health problems. These people will be given highest priority for vaccination.

Daniel R. Anderson, MD, a board certified internist, said “The overall risk of H1N1 complications appears to be greater in patients younger than 64. Relative to seasonal flu, there are fewer cases and fewer deaths in patients older than 64 years old”.

“The average school-age and pre-school child has six to eight viral, upper-respiratory infections a year, and that won’t change,” said David McCay, MD, board-certified pediatrician and internist. H1N1 should be treated like any other flu with attention to fluid intake, fever control, rest and avoiding contact with others. “If a child is diagnosed with flu or any other viral illness and is not getting better in three to five days, it’s time to seek medical treatment. H1N1 often has symptoms similar to the seasonal flu, except it typically also includes nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”

If You Suspect H1N1

If you suspect someone in your family has H1N1, doctors recommend the following treatment:
• Control fever with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, such as Tylenol®
• Drink plenty of fluids
• Rest
•Within 48 hours, ask your doctor if antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza may be effective for reducing
the duration of the illness

For school children, the Centers for Disease Control recommends all children in the family stay home for the next five calendar days to avoid the spread of the illness. A sick child should not return to school until he or she has been without a fever (or fever-reducing medicine) for 24 hours.

Although Floyd Memorial is prepared for the pandemic, Dr. Harris encourages patients who are seeking medical care to try their primary care physician or an urgent care center before coming to the hospital emergency room.

All physicians agree that the best approach is prevention. They urge patients to get the vaccine, use good hand-washing hygiene and always cover a sneeze or cough with a sleeve or use a tissue.

anderson“Prevention and early treatment are especially important if you are in any of the high-risk groups and are the keys to avoiding severe illness from either seasonal or H1N1 influenza. Barring further mutation of either, vaccination may be the most important prevention/ treatment available.”

Daniel R. Anderson, MD
Board Certified Internist
Floyd Memorial Medical Group-Salem

How Do I Know If it’s Seasonal or H1N1 Flu?

The only way to know for sure that you have H1N1 is through laboratory testing. The symptoms are similar to the seasonal flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. However, a significant number of people who have been infected with H1N1 also have reported diarrhea and vomiting.
Severe illness and death have occurred as a result of infection associated with the H1N1, so seek medical attention immediately.

If You Need Immediate Care…

Floyd Memorial’s Urgent Care Centers see patients on a walk-in basis in the order of medical severity. Both centers are prepared to care for H1N1 patients, and the Highlander Point Center in Floyds Knobs recently underwent a renovation to serve patients even better.