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Seminar offers facts on H1N1 virus

October 06, 2009|By TRISH RUDDER

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. -- More than 100 people attended a seminar Tuesday night in Martinsburg to give their knowledge about H1N1 a boost.

Mina Gaudette of Martinsburg said she heard about the program, held at the Robert C. Byrd Health Sciences Center at West Virginia University Hospital-East's City Hospital campus, on the radio and attended because she wanted to learn more. She and her husband retired from Northern Virginia and moved to Martinsburg a few years ago. 

"We need to be informed and just use common sense," Gaudette said. 

Dr. Diana Gaviria, medical director of the Berkeley County Health Department, and Dr. Robert Jones, medical director of the Jefferson County Health Department, gave a PowerPoint presentation outlining the history and current status of the pandemic.

The H1N1 virus is now increasing in the Northern Hemisphere, but the strain has not changed significantly, Gaviria said. The World Health Organization reports more than 300,000 cases in 191 countries and 3,917 deaths.  

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The virus is commonly transmitted by coughing or sneezing on someone within six feet away, projecting large droplets of saliva, or coming in contact with the virus on a surface. H1N1 lasts for about four hours on a surface, she said. 

That is why it is so important to cough in the bend of your arm and wash your hands frequently, Jones said.

"Grocery carts carry the virus and we can get it," he said.

He said people should wipe the bars used for pushing grocery carts with disinfecting wipes before touching them and then wiping off their hands with the same kinds of wipes when leaving a store.

The infectious period is one day before and five to seven days after the onset of the following symptoms: fever/chills, muscle aches, cough, sore throat, headache, stuffy/runny nose, and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea, the same symptoms as seasonal flu. 

Those who are most at risk are those younger than 25 and older than 65, Jones said. Pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions also are at risk. 

The H1N1 vaccine is particularly important for pregnant women; those who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months old; those ages 6 months to 24 years old; people ages 25 to 64 with chronic medical conditions or compromised immune systems; and health care and EMS personnel, Jones said.

Pandemic interventions are vaccinations and antiviral treatments, plus better hygiene. People who are sick should stay home, Gaviria said.  

Jones said most cases are mild to moderate, and those who get the virus should treat it with Tamiflu and Relenza, which should be started within 48 hours of symptoms showing for the best effect. Those in the high-risk groups need antivirals, he said. 

People should stay home at least 24 hours after their fever is gone, Jones said.

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