By Alicia Lacy
The Cove Herald
Flu season is here.
With concerns about the H1N1 influenza virus, also known as swine flu, representatives from the Department of State and Health Services are holding town hall meetings to review information on the virus and to announce an upcoming mass vaccination day.
During two town hall meetings in Copperas Cove Tuesday, representatives explained the difference between the seasonal flu and H1N1 strains and precautions to take to avoid contracting the virus.
Lacey Sanders, DSHS Region 7 disease surveillance coordinator, said the seasonal flu that has been circulating in the population for several seasons, allowing individuals to build up immunity. The H1N1 strain is a new strain so people do not have immunity to it yet.
Sanders said H1N1 is more catching for the younger, healthy population, pregnant women and those with underlying health risks.
Like the seasonal flu, symptoms of the H1N1 influenza include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, chills, vomiting, fatigue and/or headaches, but all symptoms aren't required for the virus to be present.
If you have the flu
Sanders advised individuals who suspect they may have the flu to either stay home or check with a doctor, depending on if they have any underlying medical conditions.
Unless a doctor sends off cultures to be tested in a lab, Sanders said many diagnosed with the H1N1 influenza may only have the seasonal flu.
Sanders stressed the importance of getting the flu shots and the H1N1 vaccine, when it becomes available.
Yolanda Holmes from the DSHS said the seasonal flu vaccination can either be administered through a nasal spray, which is a live virus only for individuals 2-49 years old, or through a shot that is a dead virus.
Because children under 6 months cannot receive the seasonal flu vaccine, Sanders stressed the importance of everyone the child comes into contact with get a vaccine "to create a cocoon effect."
Sanders said the vaccine for H1N1 will be available in a few weeks.
DSHS will host a Vaccination Day in Copperas Cove to administer the H1N1 vaccine to those who need it, but said not to wait for the mass vaccination day, but to check with their primary care physician first.
Copperas Cove Fire Chief Mike Baker said even if an individual has already had the flu to get the vaccination.
Because the virus is spread person to person and through surfaces that are contaminated with the virus, Sanders stressed the importance of frequent hand washing, covering up coughs and sneezes and containing the virus if infected.
Sanders informed attendees to wash their hands often for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
However, she said the hand sanitizers shouldn't replace regular hand washing because hand washing "removes grime and leaves the good bacteria on the hands, but with the hand sanitizers the alcohol kills all the bacteria on the hands."
When coughing, Sanders said to either cough into the elbow or with a tissue, and not to reuse tissues.
Joe Fisher, pastor at Saints Center Church, said he attended the meeting so he would be able to inform his congregation on the virus.
The H1N1 influenza was first detected in April, which caused a panic that had school districts stopping extracurricular activities and some shutting down for a short period of time.
June 11, the World Health Organization indicated the H1N1 -influenza as a pandemic.
Since the first confirmed case in April, there have been 44 deaths as a result of the H1N1 virus in the state, with 52 percent of that number being individuals in the 25-49 age group.
The town hall meetings were broadcast live on the city's Channel 10 and will be rebroadcast.
For more information on the seasonal flu or the H1N1 influenza, visit www.texasflu.org.
Contact Alicia Lacy at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7464