Seasonal and H1N1 flu seasons begin: stay informed

Here in Massachusetts, today’s local news headlines tell us that swine flu has infected 20,000 in the state since the virus first surfaced five months ago, with 11 associated deaths. Public health officials in Massachusetts say they are expecting the first doses of swine flu vaccine to arrive within about two weeks, and will be distributed to people at highest risk from the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), in any given year, about 5% to 20% of U.S. residents will get seasonal influenza (or “flu”) each year. This year, in addition to the seasonal flu, the H1N1 flu virus (also called the Swine flu) is expected to have a second wave over the next few months. The CDC discusses those who are at risk:

In seasonal flu, certain people are at “high risk” of serious complications. This includes people 65 years and older, children younger than five years old, pregnant women, and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions. About 70% of people who have been hospitalized with this 2009 H1N1 virus have had one or more medical conditions previously recognized as placing people at “high risk” of serious seasonal flu-related complications. This includes pregnancy, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and kidney disease.
One thing that appears to be different from seasonal influenza is that adults older than 64 years do not yet appear to be at increased risk of 2009 H1N1-related complications thus far.

Most people who contract either the seasonal or the H1N1 flu will recover within a few or a few weeks at most, but some people develop life-threatening complications such as pneumonia. The CDC states that about 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications each year, and more than 36,000 die.
For prevention, the CDC suggests:

  • Stay informed
  • Cough or sneeze into tissues, and then discard tissues
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • Stay home if you are sick

Flu resources:
Seasonal flu shot locator is a good source of information where you can get updated information. It includes information for individuals & families as well as for businesses, community planners & professionals.
H1N1 Flu information from the CDC. The CDC also posts flu updates of U.S. influenza activity based on key indicators, such as the number of doctor visits and hospitalization rates.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) encourages consumers to include a flu response plan in their disaster preparations this year and offers tips for getting your insurance matters in hand.