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Steps to prevent H1N1
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There continues to be a great amount of public worry about the H1N1 virus, which is more commonly known as the "Swine Flu." It is an interesting flu in that, generally, H1N1 symptoms are relatively mild. It has earned its "pandemic" label because it has affected nearly all countries around the world. It is an entirely different strain as compared to the influenza viruses that have affected the world population in past decades. In other words, a large majority of the human population does not have antibodies for this particular flu virus.

And while most people experience only mild symptoms from the H1N1 flu, some are not as lucky and will experience severe symptoms that may even result in death. The Swine Flu is expected to affect 30-40 percent of the U.S. population and has already gotten off to an early start. It also stands the chance of mutating into something more deadly than an average seasonal flu. Interestingly, some 30,000 to 40,000 people die each year of the more typical seasonal flu in the U.S. It is estimated that the number of deaths from H1BN1 could be as high as 90,000 this season.

Tens of thousands of people have already had this flu (with many of them not even knowing that it was the H1N1 strain), particularly in the southern hemisphere of the world. "They" have recently stopped counting the number of H1N1 cases because it is now such a common affliction. The trends so far are that people with compromised immune systems, the very young, pregnant women, and people ages 6 months to 24 years of age are the most susceptible to this virus. Persons aged 25 to 64 comprise the group with the highest mortality rate.

The question of whether to vaccinate has also become somewhat controversial. This, of course, is a personal choice. I recommend that you conduct research on the pros and cons of this vaccination before making a decision. For some people, it may even be an issue in the religious context. If your choice is to get vaccinated, keep in mind that there are two flu strains this year, thus requiring the regular "seasonal" flu vaccination and a separate one (either an injection or nasal spray) for H1N1.

Regardless of the vaccination issue, there are some "must do" hygiene habits to start practicing right away. These include washing your hands frequently with soap and water, keeping hands away from eyes, ears, nose and mouth (avoid the facial area entirely unless your hands have been thoroughly washed), stay away from sneezing and coughing people, eat right, get plenty of rest, and if you are sick, do not go to the work place where you can infect others.

Gargling twice a day with warm salt water (1/4 teaspoon of salt in 1 cup warm water), green tea, or Listerine may prove helpful. H1N1 takes two to three days after initial infection in the throat/nasal cavity to proliferate and show characteristic symptoms. Simple gargling prevents proliferation. Also, drinking warm liquids throughout the day (e.g. green or white tea with added lemon juice or chamomile tea) has the same effect as gargling, but in the reverse direction. Warm liquids wash off proliferating viruses from the throat into the stomach where they cannot survive, proliferate or do any harm.

The next months will show us much in the way of the actual impact of H1N1. It would be a mistake to disregard the threat of it, but overreacting would be counterproductive.

The best policy now is to employ the aforementioned prevention methods and, if you deem it necessary, get vaccinated. I wish you all the best these coming months.