Swine Flu: 10 Things You Need to Know
MIKE STOBBE , AP Medical Writer
September 04, 2009
4. Get the kids vaccinated.
These groups should be first in line for swine flu shots, especially if vaccine supplies are limited – people 6 months to 24 years old, pregnant women, health care workers. Also a priority: Parents and caregivers of infants, people with those high-risk medical conditions previously noted.
5. Get your shots early.
Millions of swine flu shots should be available by October. If you are in one of the priority groups, try to get your shot as early as possible. Check with your doctor or local or state health department about where to do this. Many children should be able to get vaccinated at school. Permission forms will be sent home in advance.
6. Immunity takes awhile.
Even those first in line for shots won’t have immunity until around Thanksgiving. That’s because it’s likely to take two shots, given three weeks apart, to provide protection. And it takes a week or two after the last shot for the vaccine to take full effect.
The regular seasonal flu shot should be widely available in September. People over 50 are urged to be among the first to get that shot.
7. Vaccines are being tested.
Health officials presume the swine flu vaccine is safe and effective, but they’re testing it to make sure. The federal government has begun studies in eight cities across the country to assess its effectiveness and figure out the best dose. Vaccine makers are doing their own tests as well.
8. Help! Surrounded by swine flu.
If an outbreak of swine flu hits your area before you’re vaccinated, be extra cautious. Stay away from public gathering places like malls, sports events and churches. Try to keep your distance from people in general. Keep washing those hands and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth.
9. What if you get sick?
If you have other health problems or are pregnant and develop flu-like symptoms, call your doctor right away. You may be prescribed Tamiflu or Relenza. These drugs can reduce the severity of swine flu if taken right after symptoms start.
If you develop breathing problems (rapid breathing for kids), pain in your chest, constant vomiting or a fever that keeps rising, go to an emergency room.
Most people, though, should just stay home and rest. Cough into your elbow or shoulder. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks. Fluids and pain relievers like Tylenol can help with achiness and fever. Always check with a doctor before giving children any medicines. Adult cold and flu remedies are not for them.
10. No swine flu from barbecue.
You can’t catch swine flu from pork – or poultry either (even though it recently turned up in turkeys in Chile). Swine flu is not spread by handling meat, whether it’s raw or cooked.
Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
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