Trees are finally shedding their leaves, football season is in full swing and the temperatures are steadily dropping – these are all telltale signs signaling the arrival of autumn, a truly wonderful time to live in New York State and our Finger Lakes community in particular. This year, these things also signal something else: the need to safeguard you and your family from the seasonal flu and, most important, the H1N1 influenza virus.
While there have been numerous reports and information about the flu and H1N1, there are also many questions about how families can best protect themselves. This week’s legislative column will discuss some basic facts about the flu, H1N1 and offer some “news you can use” on staying healthy and protecting your loved ones during flu season.
THE FLU AND H1N1
According to the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and can lead to mild to severe sickness and, in some rare cases, even death. In fact, approximately 36,000 flu-related deaths are reported each year across the United States, as noted by the CDC. Certain individuals, including senior citizens, young children, pregnant women, as well as people with certain chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease for example) are at increased risk for serious complications arising from seasonal flu illness.
The CDC has reported that the 2009 H1N1 (also referred to as the “Swine Flu”) is a new strain of the influenza virus that was first detected in people in the United States back in April of this year. This virus is contagious and can spread from person-to-person, just like regular influenza. Illness resulting from the H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe: while most affected have recovered without needing medical treatment, hospitalizations and even deaths from infection with the H1N1 virus have occurred. Pregnant women – and most especially younger children – are at high risk of serious potential complications from H1N1 infection.
As noted on the CDC’s website – www.cdc.gov – a seasonal flu vaccine and a 2009 H1N1 vaccine can help protect you and your loved ones against these viruses. A flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against potential infection. You can further reduce flu risk by washing your hands often with soap and hot water – for at least 20 seconds – avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, or having close contact with people who are sick.
FLU VACCINATION AND INFORMATIONAL RESOURCES
The American Lung Association’s on-line flu clinic locator and directory is a tremendously helpful informational resource for people looking for a flu vaccination clinic in, or near, their community. To locate a flu clinic near you, go to www.flucliniclocator.org and type in your zip code. While there, you also can schedule a flu shot reminder.
In addition to the American Lung Association’s on-line flu clinic locator, local County Departments of Health are helpful resources that can answer your questions about the flu and H1N1, along with providing information about flu and H1N1 clinics in your community. For residents of the 129th Assembly District, which includes Cayuga, Cortland, Onondaga, Ontario and Seneca counties, some of the Health Department contact information is as follows:
- Cayuga County Flu Hotline: (315) 253-1157
- Cortland County Department of Health: (607) 753-5036
- Onondaga County Department of Health: (315) 435-2000
- Ontario County Public Health: (585) 396-4343
- Seneca County Department of Health: (315) 539-1920
Another useful resource is the New York State Department of Health’s toll-free H1N1 Flu Hotline at 1-800-808-1987. You can also visit www.cdc.gov/flu, which is the CDC’s official website providing facts specifically tailored to questions about the flu and H1N1 – you also can call their toll-free hotline at 1-800-232-4636.
In some cases, there may be temporary shortages of flu and H1N1 vaccine due to increased public awareness, which has led to a much higher than expected demand. As with all vaccines – and any further concerns related to the flu and H1N1 virus – always talk with your health care provider if you have any additional questions or want to learn more about keeping you and your family safe from influenza infection. Getting the facts and being prepared will help you avoid the flu and stay healthy.
As always, constituents wishing to discuss this topic, or any other state-related matter, should contact my district office at (315) 781-2030, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org .