|H1N1 flu virus vaccine|
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the H1N1 vaccine has been ordered and will be available for all Canadians. It is anticipated that the vaccine will be available in Canada by next month. Since everyone cannot receive the vaccine at the same time, PHAC has prioritized who should get the H1N1 vaccine first. (www.phac-aspc.gc.ca)
People who have the greatest health risk will have first priority of obtaining the H1N1 vaccine. These people include pregnant women, children who are 6 months to 5 years of age, those with chronic medical conditions and people living in remote areas. Health care workers, caregivers who look after infants under 6 months old and care givers to individuals with an impaired immune system will also have priority.
Those who are between 5 and 64 years of age, first responders, poultry and swine workers and those 65 years old and up would be next to get the vaccine. Those who are 65 years of age and older have a smaller chance of getting the 2009 H1N1 flu virus because they probably came into contact with a similar virus when they were younger.
H1N1, also known as swine flu, is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It was first identified in the spring of this year and spread worldwide by June 2009. The swine flu was spread from pigs to people and is now quickly spreading from person to person. The virus is spread by germs in the air that are released by sneezing or coughing. The airborne particles make their way into our system via our eyes, nose or mouth. The virus can also be acquired by touching surfaces or objects that may be contaminated then touching your face, nose, eyes or mouth giving the virus a way in.
Symptoms of H1N1 flu resemble those of the common seasonal flu such as fever, chills, tiredness, headache, body aches, sore throat, diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms can be present three to five days after the virus is contracted.
While the H1N1 flu virus runs its course, medications can be used to provide symptom relief. For those with chronic health conditions, the doctor may prescribe an antiviral drug to decrease the severity and complications of the illness. The use of antiviral treatments is recommended for those who have a higher health risk but not recommended for everyone. The reason for this is that overuse of antiviral drugs can lead to the flu virus developing a resistance to the drugs.
If you have a flu of any kind, drink lots of fluids to prevent dehydration, get enough sleep to help your body’s immune system fight off the illness. You can use non-prescribed medication to relieve your symptoms and your pharmacist can help you find the proper treatment.
If you have shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, pain in you abdomen or chest, persistent vomiting and dizziness, seek immediate medical attention.
To lower your risk of catching or spreading H1N1
• Wash your hands before eating, before feeding children, before and after preparing food, after using the washroom, after touching pets, after handling money, after coughing/sneezing and after blowing your nose. When in doubt, just wash your hands. (See PHAC’s hand washing techniques at www.phac-aspc.gc.ca) Believe it or not, there is a proper way to wash your hands.
• Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you are unable to wash your hands.
• Eat healthy, get enough rest, enjoy physical activity and manage your stress level.
• Avoid coming into close contact with others in general and especially those who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands have been cleaned thoroughly.
• If you are sick, then stay home.
• Sneeze or cough on your arm or use a tissue to cover your face and then dispose of the tissue and wash your hands.
• You may choose to wear a mask, but make sure you wear it correctly. Misuse of a facemask can actually increase your risk of infection.
Although the vaccination will soon be here, prevention is the defence when dealing with H1N1 flu. Educate others and help protect yourself from catching or spreading the virus.
The above information is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor, pharmacist or qualified health care professional to receive proper medical treatment.
Armalyn Tesoro is a graduate of the University of Manitoba with a Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy. She is currently working as a licensed community pharmacist at Wal-Mart on Ellice and Empress.