OLYMPIA – The outbreak of H1N1 swine flu in our area has waned a bit, but health officials warn that precautions to curb the spread of the flu are still important. Sherri McDonald, Director of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, says there are several signs that the number of new H1N1 cases has declined. "We are seeing fewer hospitalizations due to the swine flu and the number of calls to Emergency Medical Services and to the Health Department is also dropping. School absenteeism is also down."
However, McDonald says everyone should still take the flu seriously. "We first saw H1N1 last spring and it spread worldwide rather quickly. It then dropped off, but came back for the second wave when school started. Public health officials expect a third wave around the first of the year, because so many folks will be traveling for Thanksgiving and Christmas and that is a prime opportunity for the virus to spread."
With holiday get-togethers planned all around the northwest with visitors from around the world, it becomes a prime opportunity for the spread of the illness. "If everyone takes some common sense steps, we can help hold back the spread of the flu and most other viruses." says McDonald. Those steps include-
- Staying at home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone if you have a flu like illness. That would include avoiding holiday get-togethers.
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Cough into your elbow if a tissue is not available.
- Washing your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are spread this way.
- Avoiding close contact with sick people – stay at least three feet away from an ill person.
McDonald also cautions that the seasonal flu is on the way. The recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is to get a vaccine for the seasonal flu AND a vaccine for H1N1 flu when available.
More information can be obtained by visiting the Thurston County Health Department website at:http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/personalhealth/influenza/swineflu.html or by calling the flu information line at 360-709-3080.