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Marks gives the lowdown on H1N1

By Staff | Sep 18, 2009

The H1N1 influenza virus is deadly, right?


The virus targets the elderly, doesn’t it?

Well, not really.

Everyone should be vaccinated immediately for H1N1.

No again.

Brenda Marks, Avera Holy Family Health pharmacist, addressed those and other H1N1 facts and fallacies at Thursday’s Estherville Rotary meeting.

There was no shortage of expert Rotarians to back up what Marks said. Filling in an occasional detail in Marks’ talk was Dr. Jim Creech, who had Thursday’s program, and Kathy Preston, Emmet County Public Health director.

Originally called swine flu, Marks said after further study it was determined that H1N1 was comprised of two proteins. She said few people over 60 contract H1H1 because of a 1957 flu strain that gave them immunity. “For once being a senior population member has a significant perk to your health,” Marks said.

Despite a certain amount of early hysteria, Marks said H1N1 symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea. There have been 3,000 H1N1 deaths yearly. That compares with a million a year from influenza A, Dr. Creech said.

Pregnant women and children and adults under 25 are the most affected. Treatment includes antivirals such as Tamaflu and Rulenza which both work in prevention and treatment.

Most people should not receive antiviral medication except for at-risk categories such as those with diabetes and heart problems, Marks said. The reason for that, Marks said, is if a virus should become more virulent there needs to be an adequate supply.

The Centers for Disease Control is no longer recommending school closings for H1N1. Marks said that policy may stem from a desire to let people develop immunity.

Dr. Creech said natural immunity is better than vaccine anyway.

Not to add to the confusion, Marks suggested a different course for treating seasonal flue.

“Should I get the seasonal flu vaccine? The answer is absolutely,” Marks said. She said the vaccine should become available in about two weeks.

Marks said the end of October or early November is the best time to get a flu vaccination. She said a person can get a regular flu shot and H1N1 at the same time. Anyone receiving flu mist must wait 28 days before vaccination.

Marks said Avera will vaccinate its own employees while Emmet County Public Health will distribute flu vaccine to the general public.

Marks advises taking the typical precautions to prevent flu:

n Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

n Wash your hands.

n Get plenty of rest.

n Keep fingers away from the mouth, nose or eyes.

n Keep work surfaces clean.

n Get a seasonal flu vaccine.