Thursday, June 18, 2009 - 8:35am
There have been approximately 300 confirmed cases of H1N1 "Swine" influenza reported in Dane County to date, although the true number of infections is probably several thousand. H1N1 may continue to be present in our community throughout the summer months even though schools are out. It is likely that almost everyone has been or will be exposed at some point although not all exposed persons develop noticeable illness.
The good news is that, for most people, this illness has been relatively mild, no worse than wintertime "flu." Diagnostic testing and specific treatment is NOT routinely needed. Rather, those with symptoms of influenza (fever, cough and/or sore throat, body aches and fatigue) should stay home, rest, drink plenty of fluids, take acetaminophen (Tylenol®) or ibuprophen (Motrin®, Advil®) and return to normal activities when these symptoms are no longer present.
However, in some cases, influenza can be serious, even life threatening. At-risk individuals (including those with underlying lung and heart disease, immune deficiencies, pregnant women, infants and toddlers) should seek medical care if they develop symptoms of influenza. There have been seven H1N1 hospitalizations in Dane County.
The World Health Organization has declared that H1N1 influenza is now officially a global "pandemic." As Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the US Centers for Disease Control says, "this comes as no surprise." Local, national and world public health has been managing the outbreak as a pandemic for several weeks. There is the expectation that currently, we are in the first phase of the pandemic and that H1N1 may return to the Northern Hemisphere this winter when cold, dry weather will allow it spread more widely. An even greater concern is that the virus may mutate into a more deadly form. Thus, we as a community must remain vigilant day-to-day and also prepare for what may come.
There hopefully will be a H1N1 specific vaccine ready for mass distribution this fall. Public Health Madison Dane County has begun to plan for how we will distribute the vaccine as widely as possible in cooperation with local health care providers and systems. We must effectively educate the public about the need to be vaccinated and think through the logistics of vaccinating many more thousands of people than normally get vaccinated for seasonal flu.
You may continue to monitor influenza communications on the PHMDC website at - www.publichealthmdc.com. Further updates will be posted as warranted.
For detailed information about H1N1 influenza, check the CDC's website at - www.cdc.gov/swineflu.
- Jeff Golden(608) 243-0302