Unusual Flu Season Coming

Swine flu no more deadly than normal, says health official

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The flu season is quickly approaching and an information campaign is under way so people can protect themselves from the swine flu.

“This is not going to be your typical flu season,” said Director of Health and Community Services for Gila County David Fletcher.

County officials have been traveling around the county with their message of flu shots and hand washing.

Swine flu presentation

Payson High School will host a swine flu presentation by Dr. Matt Bolinger, division director for Gila County Emergency Management, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sept. 2 in the auditorium, with an hour for questions afterward.

Fletcher said the county has ordered enough swine flu shots for 30,000 people, which is about the number he expects will take them. The shot consists of two injections, given about three weeks apart. It will not become available until at least mid-October. Fletcher said people should get traditional flu shots as they become available and not wait to get all shots at once.

The swine flu is no more deadly than the traditional flu, however, the virus’ novelty means people have no immunity to it.

The White House warned people earlier this week that as much as half the population could catch the swine flu, with 90,000 dying from it.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, subsequently tempered the warning, with reported predictions of a busy, but not 90,000-dead season.

Although some began to fear for their safety after hearing the news, Fletcher urged preparation.

“We’re trying to get the information out, not to scare people, but to prepare people because this is coming and it has the potential of creating some real issues.” Pandemics occur roughly three times each century, Fletcher added.

As of Aug. 20, the national death toll amounted to 522 with about 8,000 hospitalized.

The CDC reported stable, but higher-than-average flu activity for this time of the year.

Arizona has confirmed 1,100 cases. A state Department of Health Services report from Wednesday listed 43 new cases in Maricopa County during the previous week. Gila County has had two cases since the outbreak’s start in late April.

Fletcher said heat kills the virus, which will return with cooler weather. He said that although more people will likely die, the increased percentage of deaths will reflect the increased number of infections. “The percentages don’t change,” he said.

Although normally, the very young and old are more susceptible to falling ill, the H1N1 virus more particularly strikes those aged 6 months to 24 years old. The theory holds that a similar virus about 50 years ago, has partially built immunity in some older people, Fletcher said. Pregnant women are more at risk because their immune systems quiet down to carry the fetus.

To prevent the flu, Fletcher said hand washing is imperative. “If you’re sick, stay home. Don’t go around and share this thing.” The swine flu takes seven days to run its course without complications.

Because schools can allow viruses to rapidly spread, Payson Unified School District Superintendent Casey O’Brien urged parents to recognize flu symptoms, keep sick students at home, and wash hands for the length of the “Happy Birthday” song. The “ABC” song also is enough time to kill germs.

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