Open Accessibility Menu

The Flu: Nothing to Sneeze At

Every year, an average of 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations are caused in the U.S. by seasonal influenza (flu). This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects an increase because of the extra threat of the H1N1 flu virus, which was first detected in the U.S. in spring 2009.

We have an epidemic of seasonal flu every year. Some years are worse than others, but indications suggest that this season will be an active one with the additional threat of the H1N1 virus.

At press time, there have been 1,348 confirmed cases and 14 deaths related to H1N1 flu in Louisiana alone. Because many may not realize how serious the flu and related health complications can be, health officials are strongly encouraging the public to protect themselves from both types with good health habits and vaccinations.

Groups identified by the CDC to be at highest risk for experiencing SEASONAL FLU-related complications if not vaccinated include:
  • Pregnant women
  • Children, ages 6 months through 18 years
  • Adults, age 50 and older
  • Immunosuppressed individuals
  • Residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities
  • Those who live with or care for those in a high-risk group, including day care and health care workers.
Groups determined by the CDC to be at highest risk for H1N1 FLU-related complications if not vaccinated include:
  • Pregnant women
  • Children, ages 6 months through 24 years
  • Those who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age
  • Health care and emergency services workers with direct patient contact
  • People 25 to 64 years of age who are at higher risk for H1N1 flu complications because of an underlying health condition or compromised immune systems.
NOTE: Interestingly, those age 65 or older are not expected to have as high of a risk for H1N1 as children and young adults.

The symptoms of both seasonal and H1N1 flu are the same: fever, cough, muscle aches, headache, fatigue, sore throat and runny nose. Some people with H1N1 flu have reported diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, too.

Most people with the flu will recover within 1 to 2 weeks and only need non-prescription treatment of symptoms. If you have severe symptoms of the flu or if you have a chronic medical condition that affects your heart or lungs, you should contact your health care provider. Antiviral medications may help, but they must be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms in order to be effective.

In addition to vaccination, the following good health habits can help prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illnesses:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after use.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.
  • Follow your health care provider’s instructions for staying home from work or school when you are sick, and limit your contact with others to keep from infecting them. In general, it is recommended that you stay home until your symptoms are no longer being controlled by fever-reducing medications for at least 24 hours.

For more information on seasonal and H1N1 flu prevention, visit,,, or

For more information on flu shot availability, please call North Oaks at (985) 230-6647.