Letters to the Editor

Some things you should know about H1N1

H1N1 influenza (also known as "swine flu") is now widespread in San Juan County and we are seeing a growing number of infected people in our schools and in the community.

The severity of the illness and its symptoms are similar to the seasonal flu: Children will have fever and either cough or sore throat, and occasionally vomiting and diarrhea, and adults will commonly have fever, cough and/or sore throat often associated with body aches and headaches. In most cases, symptoms can be treated with bed rest, fluids, and fever-lowering medicines.

It is usually not necessary to see your physician for diagnosis or testing since in most cases recovery occurs without complications and need for additional treatment.

So who should seek medical care?

1. If you or your child have a chronic medical condition such as diabetes, asthma and/or heart disease, or if you are obese, and you develop the flu symptoms described above.

2. If you have a child under the age of 12 weeks who develops a fever, is not feeding well, or is having difficulty breathing.

3. If you are of any age and you are having difficulty breathing, feel short of breath, pain in the chest, dizziness and/or confusion, severe vomiting, or you thought you were getting better and then start to get worse again.

4. If you are pregnant and develop flu-like symptoms, even if you have had the H1N1 vaccine.

5. If you are worried about your symptoms, and are not sure if you need to be seen.

We would ask you to CALL the medical center before coming in. You will be put through to a nurse who will review your symptoms, answer your questions and arrange for you to be seen if needed.

Currently, vaccines are in short supply so we are trying to first protect those at greatest risk of severe illness. These groups are:

1. Pregnant women.

2. Caregivers of infants up to 6 months old.

3. All children 6 months through 4 years of age (healthy or high risk).

4. Children 5-24 years old with high-risk medical conditions, i.e. diabetes, asthma, heart disease or suppressed immune symptoms.

5. Children and adults 5-64 years old with high-risk medical conditions, i.e. diabetes, asthma, heart disease or suppressed immune symptoms.

6. Health care workers/EMS involved in direct patient care.

We are also now offering vaccine to all children younger than 18, and college students younger than 24. Children younger than 9 years require two doses of vaccine, the second dose given four weeks after the first.

If your child has not yet been vaccinated, or you are an adult in one of the priority groups for vaccination, please contact your medical center to make an appointment for a vaccination. If you don’t have a health care provider or are unable to arrange an appointment, contact San Juan County Health Department at 378-4474.

Finally, if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, help slow the spread of H1N1 by staying away from others. Remember to wash your hands frequently, cover your coughs, avoid sharing utensils or food, and stay home from school or work until your fever is gone for 24 hours.

A local H1N1 hotline is available 24/7 with information in English and Spanish. Dial 2-1-1 and listen to the prompts. Information is updated frequently, so check back often.

Local H1N1 news, including information about the availability of vaccine, is also available on the H1N1 section of the SAN JUAN COUNTY WEB SITE

Dr. Rachel Bishop
Dr. Loren Johnson
Dr. Susan Mahoney
Dr. Michael Wingren
Inter Island Medical Center

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