Important Updates Regarding the H1N1 Flu

A presidential advisory panel recently informed that the H1N1 virus, formerly known as swine flu, could cause up to 90,000 deaths in the US this year, which is a substantial increase from the 64,000 individuals who usually die during flu season. The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology has also reported that the H1N1 flu could infect between 30 and 50 percent of the US population this fall and winter, and the government is urging the American population to take this threat seriously.

While health officials ensure us a vaccine for the H1N1 flu is being tested, one is not likely to become available until mid-October, which leaves us particularly vulnerable as we head into flu season this year. The following tips are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to reduce your risk of illness and help prevent the spread of H1N1 flu.

Wash hands periodically through the day with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time

Alcohol-based hand cleaners can be an effective way to ward off germs as well

Avoid touching your mouth, eyes or nose

Always cough and sneeze into a tissue and then immediately throw the tissue away

Stay at least six feet away from people who are sick, and if you're sick, limit your contact with others

If you become ill, stay home and stay there for at least 24 fever-free hours without the aid of medications

Improve your immune system by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and exercising regularly

Keep updated on the availability of the H1N1 vaccine, and get your seasonal flu vaccination as soon as it's available

H1N1 flu symptoms are much like other flu viruses: fever, cough, sore throat, runny / stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people have also reported diarhea and vomiting. It's important to remember that the H1N1 flu is still the flu and panicking will not help anyone. No, you can not catch it from eating pork and no, racing to the nearest emergency room is not necessary. As a matter of fact, a visit to the emergency room could have exposed you to the very germs you should avoid. If you are seriously worried, always call your doctor's office first and listen to their instructions. You should especially call your doctor if your fever is unusually high or has lasted longer than three days, if you're having difficulties breathing or producing fluid, if your fever returns after a few days, or if you've developed dark spots on your hands or mouth.