Swine flu no longer threat; precautions encouraged with flu season

Published 5:23 pm Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The cold and flu season is in gear. But this time around, the H1N1 strain of flu, better known as swine flu, is hardly being mentioned, and for good reason.

“I can’t say it’s completely gone, but swine flu is definitely on the back burner right now as a public health concern,” said Ziba Anderson of the Butler County Health Department.

“Based on everything I am understanding, it’s not anything for us to worry about. I’m not saying it can’t come back, but thankfully now our current flu vaccine has the swine flu vaccine mixed into it, so people who are vaccinated will be protected.”

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What a difference a year has made. In late 2009, schools across the county were dealing with large numbers of students being felled by what appeared to be swine flu. At Fort Dale Academy in Greenville, this meant many absences and the postponement and cancellation of certain school events.

Headmaster David Brantley is breathing a sigh of relief his students and faculty are largely staying well this holiday season.

“We haven’t had any of the problems of last winter. After last year’s experience, we learned to be extra-cautious,” Brantley said. “We’ve become very proactive. We talk with the children all the time about the importance of covering their mouths and noses when they sneeze or cough, frequent hand washing and cleaning of desks.”

And taking those kinds of steps is just what Anderson would encourage the public to do to help combat winter ills.

“It’s amazing how quickly you can spread something by coughing or sneezing into the open air, so please use a sleeve, a tissue, a hankie. Especially right now while it is so cold and people are inside more and more together, taking precautions like that are important,” said Anderson.

While there are some viruses currently making their rounds in Butler County, Anderson said there were no indications as yet from local physicians or hospitals of confirmed flu cases.

Flu vaccines are still readily available in the county, Anderson said, including through the health department.

He said he strongly recommends all small children over the age of six months, those with auto-immune disorders and chronic illnesses, and all senior adults receive flu shots.

“It is also extremely important all health care workers and any caretakers of small children, the elderly or chronically ill, also get the vaccination to help protect these populations,” Anderson said.

The Center for Disease Control encourages the following steps to help prevent the spread of flu and other illnesses:

*Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

* Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

*Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.

* Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

* If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDS recommends that you stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care and other necessities (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).

*While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.