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What Do You Think About the Flu?

By Katie Kern, mom of two elementary school kids and a healthcare communications expert for the Colorado Immunization Program

Wow, what a year. H1N1, or swine flu, raised its ugly oinking head and made many of us parents pretty scared.

It seems so long ago that world health officials declared the 2009 H1N1 flu a pandemic and many parents worried about what was on the horizon.

Beginning last summer, we saw camps closing and kids being sent home after flu outbreaks. Then as school started, we saw the number of H1N1 cases rise forcing some schools to close.

We taught our kids (and ourselves) the great art of washing hands, sneezing into our sleeves and using hand sanitizer like it was going out of style.

Many of us rushed to get our seasonal flu vaccinations and then waited, not so patiently, for manufacturers to get their H1N1 vaccines to the public. Then when H1N1 vaccine finally arrived we waited again to let those at highest risk get their vaccinations first.

Despite having a vaccine and our public health’s quick response, in Colorado we lost 12 children due to the H1N1 flu virus or complications from it. I can’t even imagine the anger and heartache those families must feel, losing a child to the flu?! Try for a moment to fathom that anguish and it’s easier to understand why health officials have been so concerned about this novel virus called H1N1 that hits our young people with such intensity.

I know many parents, myself included, are relieved that the number of flu cases has dropped off and we’re not seeing major outbreaks anymore. We certainly hope the worst is over but realize, as the flu experts remind us, we likely haven’t seen the last of 2009 H1N1 or seasonal flu. The “traditional” flu season can last through April.

NOW is the time to get the second shot for children under age 9, and get you vaccinated too. There is plenty of supply and it’s often as easy as going to your doctor’s office or local pharmacy.

We can also feel reassured knowing that the vaccine is safe. The CDC says between 70 and 90 million Americans got the H1N1 vaccine and we know there have been few big problems or side effects. Just this month, researchers in California and the Centers for Disease Control released a study (http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2010-02-08-Swineflu08_ST_N.htm) that found one in every 10,000 Californians who contracted H1N1 died. This is in stark contrast to the 13 million Californians who were vaccinated for H1N1 and only three people died (and those deaths were due to other health-related causes).

Right now, experts in the healthcare field are looking back to gauge the lessons learned about this very different flu season. We hope you’ll help us by taking this short survey for the Colorado Immunization Program at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/GBNG36G

The surveys are anonymous. If you like, at the end you can enter to win a $250 gift certificate for the wonderful Tall Grass Spa and Salon in Evergreen for sharing what you think about the flu.

We sure hope we won’t experience another flu season like this one again, but your feedback will help public health officials in Colorado learn what worked and what needs to be worked on to protect our community if a similar challenge arises.

Parents’ Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions about H1N1 Flu

Experts at The Children’s Hospital Answer
Parents’ Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions about H1N1 Flu

1. Does my child have H1N1 flu?

The classic symptoms of H1N1 are a fever with a cough and a sore throat. If your child has flu symptoms and H1N1 is widespread in the community, he or she probably has H1N1. Your child doesn’t need any special tests to reach this conclusion. Currently only patients who need hospitalization are tested.

  • If your child has a sore throat with a fever and doesn’t develop a cough, he or she may need to be checked for Strep throat.

2. How can I make my child feel better?

The treatment of H1N1 depends on your child’s main symptoms. To open a blocked nose, use a nasal wash with saline. For a cough, use one to two teaspoons of honey (do not use for children under one year old). Ibuprofen will help a sore throat. To prevent dehydration, encourage extra fluids.

  • Check out The Children’s Hospital Web site for an Influenza handout with detailed information about treating flu symptoms.

3. My child hurts everywhere. Is that serious?

H1N1 can cause soreness everywhere: headache, back pain, chest pain and leg pain. To soothe sore muscles, give ibuprofen to reduce inflammation. To prevent stomach irritation, always administer pain medication with food. If pain is severe and lasts more than 90 minutes after taking ibuprofen, your child probably should see a doctor.

Questions and Answers for Moms about H1N1

By Dr. Keren Call, pediatrician and board member of the Colorado Children’s Immunization Coalition

Swine flu. H1N1. Scary stuff right?

I don’t know about you, but I’m seeing a lot of information about H1N1, sometimes called swine flu, every day – on TV, on the internet, in the newspaper. Moms have lots of questions about how to prevent H1N1, how safe the vaccine will be, and how can they best protect their family.

With the development of the H1N1 flu strain, the biggest thing to remember is not to panic. There is a lot of news and headlines preparing us for the WORST CASE SCENARIO. The predictions on infection rates are just that, predictions. The constant stream of information can be scary, but it is unknown what will really happen with the spread of H1N1 this flu season.

The good news is we DO know a lot about flu and H1N1. We know that we can prevent seasonal flu with a flu shot right now. We know that the H1N1 vaccine will be distributed in October. We know that the H1N1 vaccine will be safe. We know that the most vulnerable people – pregnant moms, children from birth to 24 years, and adults 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions – should get the vaccine first. We know that if your baby is under six months and is too young to get the vaccine, that everyone around the baby should be vaccinated. We also know that there should be enough vaccine for everyone who wants it; it just might take some time.

I do want to take some time to go through some specific questions I’ve heard from moms about H1N1: