The mysterious strain of influenza that began last spring is hanging over countries throughout the world like a heavy cloud.  Officials in the U.S. are concerned that the virus could infect as many as 30 to 50 per cent of its citizens, put 1.8 million persons in hospitals, and possibly kill between 30,000 to 90,000 people.  Seasonal flu kills 36,000 Americans in an annual normal flu season, and causes more than 200,000 patients to be admitted to hospitals.

Another main concern from health officials is that prescription medications, Tamiflu and Relenza, are being widely misused.  In the United Kingdom, experts had warned physicians not to prescribe the drug just because of public demand.  These medications can reduce the severity of the illness; however, they should be given only to high-risk patients, such as pregnant women, children under 5, or persons with underlying health conditions.

Excessive overuse can build up a resistance to antiviral drugs, as well as lead to a lack of medicine for those who desperately need them.  Many persons who have been taking Tamiflu in general, have not completed the required dosage, and some have reported side effects, such as vomiting or nausea.

As we witnessed on local television news last night, the first lesson being taught in an elementary school yesterday (the first day of school), was washing their hands.  School officials are aware of the importance these and other precautionary measures are to avert the spread of H1N1 in their schools.  As we have reported, government officials have designated local school administrations to be the decision makers if the need arises to close their schools.  It is felt that long periods of school closures are not necessary, as was done in the spring.  Anyone who has been ill is asked not to return to school until they have been free of fever for at least 24 hours.  The same should apply to return to work, as well.

Five vaccine providers are working diligently to get the first immunizations out as soon as possible.  Until they are tested and approved, it is recommended that persons take the regular seasonal flu shot that should be available in September.