Sunday, November 01, 2009

H1N1 is here

It’s true. Swine flu is here. It is all over New Mexico including here at UNM. Have you had it yet? How about your friends and classmates? How many are out today with flu? I’ll bet there are at least a few, and there will likely be more next week.

We have seen lots of H1H1 influenza or “Swine Flu” at Student Health and Counseling. Since September 1st we have had over 100 cases of “influenza-like illness.” Most of these were H1N1. All have recovered. And those are just the ones who have come to the clinic. There have been many more cases where people just stay home and take care of themselves.

The virus continues to spread. It is very contagious and likes young people. Chances are good that you’ll get it, and chances are excellent that you’ll survive. Here are some tips to help you manage before, during and after you get H1N1.

Before you get sick: Get the regular seasonal flu shot. Make sure you have basic medications at home for fever, cough and congestion. Buy a thermometer, and maybe some soups and juices. Once you have flu you won’t feel like going out to the store for this stuff, and they won’t want you there spreading germs. So stock up. Try to avoid getting the flu by staying away from sick people, keeping your hands away from your face, and washing your hands often. Get plenty of sleep and eat well so your body is strong for the fight against germs.

Once you are sick: Flu symptoms are fever over 100.5, cough, body aches, sore throat, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. If you have some or all of these you might have flu. Take to your bed! Drink lots of liquids and treat your symptoms. Expect to be out of commission for five to seven days. Please do NOT go to work or school or out to eat at a restaurant! I know students who have done all of these things. If you go out in public you are putting others at risk. Be considerate and stay away. Contact your professors by email or phone to let them know you are sick.

Should you get medical care? If you are a basically healthy person who gets the flu, you probably don’t need to see a doctor. Self treatment at home is usually adequate. If, however, you are pregnant, have asthma or other lung problems, are under 2 years old or over 65, or have any chronic medical condition, you should seek care. There is a medication called oseltamivir (Tamiflu) that is recommended for people in these high risk groups, to decrease the risk of flu complications like pneumonia.

If you are not in these risk groups, there is a small chance that you could still get seriously ill from flu. We have all heard the stories of people who died from H1N1 who had no underlying medical problem. Those stories are scary to be sure, but thankfully also very rare. It is unlikely to be you. That said, if you do get any of the following symptoms, regardless of who you are, please hustle in to the nearest emergency room:

Severe difficulty breathing, severe pain in the chest or belly, sudden dizziness or confusion, severe or persistent vomiting.

After you recover. First of all, this takes a while. As I said before, expect to be out of commission for five to seven days. That means at home resting. Even after the worst of the symptoms have passed, you’ll be weak and easily tired for several days. Take it easy. Don’t return to sports until you feel really good.

Once you are well, step outside and take a deep breath of our crisp Fall air. Stretch your strong body, look up at our New Mexico Blue sky and give yourself the gift of gratitude for your life and good health.

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