Swine flu clues
Barbara Schnitker, director of nurses at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department, said that though there are some unknowns about the swine flu, or H1N1 flu virus, simple steps can be taken to avoid it.
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Q: In some media reports, it has been framed that catching this virus is imminent and that it could lead to death. What do you think of those types of reports?
A: This strain of the flu — which is called the H1N1 strain — for the most part seems to be generally mild as far as its effects upon people. There have been deaths in Mexico — I think it's about nine — but if you look at it in terms of the number of people ill who have died, it's a relatively small number, though any death is tragic. The only death in the United States was a Mexican citizen who was visiting Texas.
Q: Are the same people who are at risk for complications because of normal influenza — infants, seniors and those with weak immune systems — the same group people at risk with this new strand?
A: It's somewhat of a mix, but a compromised immune systems makes it much harder for your body to mount a response. It's a new virus so it may just die out, or it could go on, but we don't know that yet.
Q: If I got a flu shot in the fall, will that help defend against the H1N1 strand?
A: Well, it's good that you got a flu shot for the seasonal flu, but it won't protect against this strand because it's a different viral strand.
Q: So what should people do to avoid it?
A: It's really just common sense and doing the same things you would do with seasonal flu — washing your hands, not touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Q: So if I have flu-like symptoms, should I call the health department or my doctor?
A: We would prefer that you call your primary care provider.