Think it through let's not panic

By Buck Traxler, I-O Editor
   As of this writing the H1N1 flu has not arrived in Conrad or Valier.
   However, it is only a matter of time and the seasonal flu is scratching the surface all around us.
   Cynthia Grubb, the county health nurse reported that Heart Butte and Chester have a large number of absences due to flu and Choteau has more than 60 students with symptoms of flu.
   “So far, Conrad and Valier have not experience H1N1, but it’s just a matter of time,” says Grubb.
   The Pondera County Health Department (PCHD) is scheduled to receive their first shipment of H1N1 vaccine next week.
   The signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to those of seasonal flu and may include a fever, cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills, fatigue, diarrhea and vomiting.
   The H1N1 has been referred to as the “swine Flu” is a new virus and despite its name, this flu is not transmitted by food and that includes pork.
   A seasonal flu shot will not protect you from H1N1. A shipment of H1N1 vaccine is due in to the PCHD next week.
   Mary Erickson, RN, at the Pondera Medical Center noted they got about half of their shipment of season flu vaccine. Their priority will be employees, in-patients health care providers.
   She said the hospital will be putting out a flyer of FAQs, (Frequently Asked Questions) about the flu this week.
   Erickson also noted that people and parents need to plan ahead. For example, if you have kids in a day care center and they won’t accept them because they are sick. …. leaving the rest of the sentence up in the air, knowing one has to plan for such a contingency. Both Grubb and Erickson noted, concerning the flu, is to make sure your facts are right; there is more speculation than facts out there.
   If you have questions or need detailed information, you may call the Centers for Disease Control hotline at 1-800-232-4623, go to their website at cdc.com, or call Grubb and PCHD 271-3247 or Erickson at the PMC 271-3211.
   Since the flu, including the new H1N1 is an airborne virus there are a number of ways to protect yourself and these are worth repeating.
   Wash your hands with soap and water, especially after you sneeze or cough. Hand sanitizers that are alcohol based are also very effective.
   While it isn’t always possible, try to avoid people who are sick and by all means avoid touching your eyes and mouth and nose.
   Keep your kitchen, bathroom and kids toys clean. Don’t share items for drinking or eating and drink plenty of water. And, while it’s easier said than done, try to keep stress under control.
   If you do come down with the flu, either season and H1N1, there a few things you can do to treat it on your own.
   One is to stay home until at least 24 hours after you are free of a fever or the signs of fever without the use of fever-reducing medications.
   Again, limit contact with others. If you have to go out, try and wear a surgical mask.
   Again, make sure you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and if you don’t have one, cough into your upper sleeve.
   Make sure you get increased rest and sleep and drink plenty of clear fluids. This means water, not gin or vodka. It can’t be stressed enough to wash your hands with soap and water and use an alcohol based sanitizer.
   The flu may be coming but with a little planning and forethought, the effects may be minimal.
   Actually, Grubb is more worried about pertussis (whooping cough) which is a highly contagious bacterial disease that can be fatal for infants.
   It creates a sticky thick mucus in the airways that makes it hard to breath, eat or drink.
   It is known as whooping cough because people with the disease often make a loud “whoop” sound as they struggle to breathe through the narrowed airways.
   In 2007, more than 10,000 cases were reported and there are at least 25 known cases in Montana, although none in our immediate area.