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Washington County Health Department provides H1N1 update

September 21, 2009

The Washington County Health Department reports that it is aware of an influenza-like illness being reported across Washington County.

This is consistent with expectations of the public health community because of the H1N1 (swine) strain. Health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say as many as 98 percent of flu cases are the result of the H1N1 strain. So far this new strain of flu causes symptoms similar to the more familiar seasonal flu.

Schools, institutions and office settings are particularly vulnerable to the rapid spread of flu. Individuals and families should take steps to minimize their chance of becoming infected. Prevention is the most effective way to limit the spread of flu, so health officials recommend the following actions:

Get a flu vaccination, both for seasonal and H1N1 flu. This requires two different vaccinations. Seasonal flu vaccine is currently available and H1N1 vaccine is expected to become available in mid- to late October.

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Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you or your child is sick with influenza-like symptoms such as a fever, cough and sore throat, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others.

Students with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after they no longer have a fever.

If you are ill with flu-like symptoms, you should minimize your contact with others. Even a mild case of flu in a healthy individual could become quite serious when transmitted to someone with a medical condition that makes them vulnerable to complications of illness.

Parents should have an alternative child care plan in place in order to minimize the possibility that a sick child may spread illness to others in the school or day care setting.

For local swine flu information and resources, go to www.washingtoncountyhospital.com, www.dhmh.state.md.us or www.washhealth.org.

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