I chose this topic because the H1N1 virus and the swine flu have taken over the news. The Ohio Department of Health is heavily committed in getting the word out. “During the week of October 18-24, 2009, influenza activity continued to increase in the United States as reported in FluView. Flu activity is now widespread in 48 states. Nationally, visits to doctors for influenza-like-illness continue to increase steeply and are now higher than what is seen at the peak of many regular flu seasons. In addition, flu-related hospitalizations and deaths continue to go up nation-wide and are above what is expected for this time of year.” (ODH).
The story is both a local and national headline. The television news report 60 Minutes lead off this weeks show with a serious discussion about all aspects of the new viral spread of the H1N1 virus and issues regarding the production process and current delays about the vaccine that was recently developed. The TV show went as far as showing the factory that produces the new viral vaccine even though the location and process are top secret. But what does all this scary news mean to the citizens of Stark County? Should Northeastern Ohio even be concerned? Who cares if there is enough vaccine and will the available vaccine even be safe considering how quickly it got to market and past scares from Gilliam Bara with another highly suspect vaccine. The United States government seems to be under the impression that if 60 Minutes devotes some time to a subject, people had better listen.
Because of the swine flu, the word pandemic has been used quite a bit lately. A pandemic is different than a typical epidemic because of the fact that they can become widespread and affect entire regions such as ours, continents or even the entire world. The fear of a pandemic became a reality when scientists realized that this particular strain of virus was completely new and therefore no one on the planet has a natural immunity to it. This new virus creates certain symptoms that are similar to normal run of the mill type flues that we have been dealing with for many years.
The H1N1 virus strain has shown some similarity to past seasonal flues that only give people normal flu-like symptoms. The problem for some though is that the new virus can and has also caused much more severe symptoms and many seemingly healthy people have died.
The Center For Disease Control point out that certain people are more at risk for these more severe reactions than others. The list includes, children under 5 and especially under 2 years old, people 65 and older, pregnant women and already ill people with certain diseases like cancer, sickle cell disease, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, heart, kidney and liver disorders and weakened immune systems. “Also, its possible for healthy people to develop severe illness from the flu so anyone concerned about their illness should consult a health care provider.” (CDC)
The United States government has created a vaccine that is specifically designed to create future immunity to the current strain of the H1N1. “Vaccination is the best protection against contracting the flu. Find H1N1 (Swine) flu and seasonal flu vaccines where you live. You need two vaccines to be fully protected this year. The seasonal flu vaccine is different from the H1N1 flu vaccine. The CDC is encouraging people to get both vaccinations. Nationwide distribution of the H1N1 flu vaccine is underway to all states. Vaccine production is now at or near full capacity.” (Flu.Gov)
As of October 31, 2009, Ohio has already received 595,200 shipments of the vaccine. This number obviously shows that there is nowhere near enough of the vaccine to cover every man woman and child in our area. The government has definite lists of individuals who should get vaccinated first. So what should the rest of us Ohioans do? The CDC says that there are some very specific signs or symptoms to look for before going.