Southwest Health District Offers Tips to Keep H1N1 Influenza at Bay During the Holidays  

While holidays bring friends and family together, unfortunately that closeness also gives germs a chance to spread. But taking some simple precautions can help keep loved ones healthy, says Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

“We are seeing a decline in the number of Pandemic H1N1 cases here in the District and throughout most of the country. However, we need to be mindful that pandemics typically come in waves,” Grant cautioned. “Although the trend shows a downward slope, the people who are still getting sick and still spreading germs can sicken others. That can fuel the next wave.”

One of the best ways to keep H1N1 – and other contagious diseases from spreading – is to only travel when well, Grant said.

“As much as you may want to visit relatives or friends, if you are feeling sick, you need to stay home,” she said. “Remember, H1N1 vaccine is still limited.”

Not everyone in the priority populations at risk of complications from H1N1 who want the vaccination have been able to get it yet, Grant pointed out. She added that only after the priority groups are protected will the vaccine be made available to the general population.

“So it is all the more important to continue practicing good hand hygiene during the holiday season, when handshakes, hugs and gifts are being exchanged,” said Grant. “By washing hands with soap and warm water frequently and thoroughly, or by using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, you can help keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.”

Also, remember to cover coughs and sneezes, especially when traveling in close quarters and during holiday gatherings, she continued.

Finally, said Grant, get vaccinated against H1N1 and seasonal flu as soon as you can.

“It is frustrating that the vaccines are still in short supply, but more doses are being manufactured and shipped each week,” she said. “As more vaccine becomes available, we will be able to offer it to more of the population. Eventually there will be vaccine for everyone who wants it.”

Further, the District is expecting to receive around 4,000 doses of seasonal flu vaccine in December. “An announcement will go out once the seasonal flu vaccine has been received and distributed to the county health departments,” Grant said.

“Stay informed about when and where you can get vaccinated. Be diligent about prevention measures to keep flu from spreading,” she said. “Good health is a wonderful gift to share during the holiday season.”

For more information about swine flu (H1N1) go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org or www.cdc.gov/swineflu/ or call the District’s toll-free Flu Hotline, 800-829-2255.