FLU SEASON STRIKING EARLY THIS YEAR

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Flu season is under way early this year, as the swine flu sweeps through area workplaces and schools.

The H1N1 virus has yet to cause excessive absences in most schools, but officials are braced. They have set up special rooms for sick kids awaiting a ride home and equipped classrooms with hand cleaner and tissues.

What is the H1N1 virus?

H1N1 is a new virus that combines genes from flu viruses that circulate in pigs, birds and humans. On June 11, the World Health Organization announced a pandemic was under What is the H1N1 virus?

H1N1 is a new virus that combines genes from flu viruses that circulate in pigs, birds and humans. On June 11, the World Health Organization announced a pandemic was under way. Health officials say most people experiencing flu-like symptoms in the Sacramento region at this time have swine flu.

How is H1N1 different from the seasonal flu?

The virus is new and, because people have not developed immunity, can spread more easily. It primarily affects teens, young adults and the middle-aged. The seasonal flu, by contrast, tends to be most dangerous to the very young and very old.

Is H1N1 more deadly than the seasonal flu?

Not at this point. The death rate is about the same. But health officials worry this could change: They say the respiratory infections in people with swine flu are more severe than in seasonal flu, and the virus could morph into a more lethal form.

If you or a family member shows symptoms:

� Stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever subsides without use of medication. Recent studies suggest the flu could be contagious for more than a week after symptoms appear.

� Wear a mask when leaving home for medical appointments or other necessities.

� Rest and drink plenty of fluids.

� Move into a separate room from the rest of the household. Use a separate bathroom, which should be cleaned daily.

� Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sneeze into sleeve. Throw tissues in trash. Wash hands after sneezing or coughing.

� Most people do not need antiviral drugs to recover.

Call the doctor if:

� The infected person is older than 65 or younger than 2; has cancer, blood disorders, chronic lung disease, diabetes, heart disease, kidney or liver disorders, neurological disorders, a weakened immune system or is pregnant.

Get medical help immediately if:

� Children have trouble breathing; bluish or gray skin color; aren’t drinking fluids; aren’t waking or interacting; are irritable to the point they do not want to be held; develop a fever with a rash; seem to improve then fever returns and cough worsens.

� Adults have difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; vomit persistently or experience pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness or confusion.

Advice for caregivers:

� Designate one caregiver. This person should not be pregnant or have other health issues.

� Avoid getting too close to the sick person.

� While holding a sick child, place the child’s chin on your shoulder so he or she doesn’t cough in your face.

� Ask your doctor about taking antiviral medication to prevent you from getting the flu.

� Do not give aspirin to children or teenagers who have the flu, as this can cause Reye’s syndrome.

See Related: HAND SANITIZER MUST BE AT LEAST 60% ALCOHOL TO BE EFFECTIVE

See Related: SWINE FLU AND YOUR HEALTH ON PLANES

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