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October 10, 2011


As temperatures begin to cool, coughing and sneezing inevitably follow. So begins flu season in the United States - and preventable deaths, says David Kimberlin, MD, a University of Alabama at Birmingham professor of pediatrics and president-elect of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society.

"Each year, an average of 24,000 people in the United States start the flu season alive and by the end of it have been killed by it; that is enormous," says Kimberlin, who co-directs the UAB Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases.

Kimberlin says it is too early to forecast the extent of this flu season, but he cautions people to protect themselves.

"Regardless how severe a flu season is predicted to be, people should be concerned every year. They should get their annual flu shot anytime the flu vaccine is available. If you haven't yet done so, stop and get it," Kimberlin says.

"The strains that are circulating in the 2011-12 season are the same strains circulating this past year," Kimberlin says. "That's the first time that has happened in a very long time."

That means there is no shortage of the flu vaccine. "We have a good supply already, so we have the best opportunity to protect the U.S. population from this deadly disease," Kimberlin explains.

One of the strains included in this year's influenza vaccine is H1N1, a pandemic strain that infected about 61 million people in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

During the 2010-11 flu season, 115 children died of flu-related causes, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; less than a quarter of them had received the flu vaccine, and nearly half of them were age 5 and younger.

October 10, 2011

Anyone Can Get Influenza

On average, 1 out of 5 Americans suffer from influenza every year. In addition, influenza and its related complications result in approximately 226,000 hospitalizations in the US each year. Depending on virus severity during the influenza season, deaths can range from 3000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

We all are at risk for contracting influenza. The results for some will be lost work or school days. But for those at highest risk, the results can be more serious - leading to hospitalization and even death. The best way to prevent influenza is with an annual flu shot.

Together, pneumonia and influenza are the eighth leading cause of death in the United States. Influenza is serious, so getting vaccinated should be your number one priority!

Influenza symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur, but are more common in children than adults.

Complications of influenza can include viral or bacterial pneumonia and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, congestive heart failure, and diabetes. Children may experience sinus problems and ear infections.

Influenza viruses spread in respiratory droplets caused by coughing and sneezing. They usually spread from person to person, though sometimes people become infected by touching something contaminated with the influenza virus and then touching their mouth, eyes, or nose.

October 10, 2011

Hygenic Cleaning to Help Reduce H1N1 Infections

The best way to deal with disease is not to treat it, but to prevent it. A critical component of prevention is hygienic cleaning of surfaces; especially those that come into direct contact with skin. The more we understand about disease and how it is transferred, the more clear the importance of cleaning becomes. In fact it's considered by many healthcare professionals and environmental scientists as our first line of defense against infectious disease.

Flu viruses, including H1N1, can survive up to 12 hours on paper or cloth and up to 48 hours on nonporous surfaces like most commercial countertops, doorknobs, and desks, and as much as 72 hours on moist surfaces, which help to keep the illness-causing virus alive. This means that in an improperly cleaned facility, the H1N1 virus can remain alive, potentially infecting others through cross contamination, for up to three days.

When cleaning, focus on high-touch areas. Some of the most common transmission points for viruses are elevator buttons, doorknobs, chairs, telephones, vending machines, and commonly touched surfaces such as tables and countertops. When using traditional cleaning methods, change mops and cleaning cloths frequently. Studies indicate that mops, wipes, and cleaning cloths become soiled very quickly and can actually spread the germs and bacteria they are intended to remove.

October 10, 2011

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