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SGH dispels rumors about the H1N1 flu

By Staff | Oct 28, 2009

With all the unsettling news regarding the H1N1 virus and possible vaccine shortage, residents throughout Tyler County are in a panic over the pandemic flu.

As a result of the panic, Sistersville General Hospital has joined forces with the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department to provide an educational brochure developed from the most current information from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to alleviate fears and let the community know we are here for them. As part of the campaign, the hospital has distributed brochures to area businesses for distribution to the community they serve.

According to Trish O’Neil, Director of Nursing at SGH, the hospital received a limited supply of H1N1 vaccine from the State to vaccinate employees at the hospital as well as local EMS personnel and high risk patients, such as those who are pregnant or immuno-compromised to name a few. “We have used the entire first round of vaccine we were given, Dorothy Lockett RN from Wetzel/Tyler Health Department transferred to us 20 additional doses so we could offer more vaccine to the employees.”

To date approximately 40 percent of the employees have taken the H1N1 vaccine, and have had no complications. “We expect to be able to reorder more H1N1 vaccine from the State in mid-November,” O’Neil explained.

The vaccination to protect against H1N1 is produced in the same manner as the seasonal flu vaccine. This year in an effort to get a jump start on the production of the H1N1 vaccine, the production of the seasonal flu vaccine was slowed down. More seasonal flu vaccine is being produced and will be available according to the CDC.

“When we get another shipment of the H1N1 vaccine and the seasonal flu vaccine, we will be distributing the supply to our providers for their patients” O’Neil explained. “One important point to remember is that flu season runs from now until March and we can vaccinate until then.”

O’Neil emphasized the need for patients to remain calm if they aren’t prescribed anti-viral medications by their doctors, the CDC recommends that anti-viral medication be used for people who are severely ill, hospitalized or in a high risk category such as under the age of 5, over the age of 65, asthma, pregnancy, immuno-compromised or diabetic. Anti-viral medication is not recommended for treatment of otherwise healthy people, also the flu swab test is not as accurate as patients presume.

“According to the literature that accompanies the flu kits, the flu swab test is only 10-70 percent accurate. Therefore, most physicians are treating the symptoms instead of relying solely on the accuracy of a swab test. The symptoms are the same as the seasonal flu and are treated the same way. Prevention is still the best medicine,” O’Neil said.

Symptoms of H1N1 include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

People should cover their noses and mouths with tissues when they cough or sneeze, taking precautions to throw tissues in the trash after use. They should wash their hands with soap and water, if soap and water are not available, they should use alcohol-based hand rub.

They should stay home and rest and not go to work, school or public places when they are sick. Too much traveling can tax the body when it needs its strength to fight a virus.

Patients should drink plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration and avoid drinking alcohol because of the increase risk of dehydration.

In most cases, a trip to the doctor is not necessary because healthy people will recover on their own in about five days.

There are some emergency sign to watch for in children and in adults. In children they include fast or labored breathing, indicating pneumonia or sepsis; bluish skin color the child may not be getting enough oxygen; not drinking enough fluids, which puts a child at risk for dehydration; not waking up or interacting, which can indicate a more severe case; being so irritable that the child doesn’t want to be held, which can also indicate more severe illness; a return of flu symptoms after the child appeared to be getting better, which could indicate that the child has developed a secondary illness or was misdiagnosed with the flu; or a fever with a rash, which can indicate an illness other than the flu.

For adults, emergency warning signs include difficult breathing or shortness of breath, which could indicate pneumonia or sepsis; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, which could indicate a more serious case of that flu is not the right diagnosis; sudden dizziness or confusion, which can mean the person is not getting enough oxygen; or severe or persistent vomiting, which can lead to dehydration.

In the meantime, SGH has limited visitors to the hospital and patients who come into the emergency room with a fever or a cough are given masks. This week alone, flu related traffic has increased from 7 to 51, proving that pandemic flu is on the doorstep.

Though treatable, the statistics for H1N1 frighten people. The most alarmingstatistic is that although pregnant women make up one percent of the U.S. population, they represent six percent of the deaths from H1N1 flu, justifying the need to for mothers-to-be to receive the vaccination.

Other high priority groups include people who live with or care for infants younger than six months of age; health care and emergency medical personnel; anyone from six months through 24 years of age; and anyone from 25 through 64 years of age with certain chronic medical conditions or a weakened immune system.

“Again our goal is to educate and alleviate fears in the community regarding the H1N1 virus, available vaccine and plan for distribution of future shipments of vaccine. We encourage patients to call their healthcare provider with concerns and to follow the guidance of the CDC regarding prevention and their role in stopping further spread of the virus,” O’Neil concluded.