There are many different viruses that cause influenza, a viral infection with general symptoms of fever, lethargy, body aches, headache, cough, and sore throat. But the novel H1N1 virus poses a new kind of threat than do the viruses of the common seasonal flu.
What is Seasonal Influenza?
Seasonal flu makes its round every year, with outbreaks at their worst in the fall and winter months, when more people are cooped up inside. The viruses that cause seasonal influenza have been infecting people for many generations, so the human body knows these invaders and is usually able to quickly recognize and mount an efficient response to fight off this common infection. Still, tens of thousands – mostly the elderly, very young, and immune compromised – die from seasonal flu annually.
A new formulation of the seasonal flu vaccine is created prior to each flu season, because viruses are always changing. Each new, updated seasonal flu vaccine protects people from the latest novel characteristics of the common flu viruses.
What is the Novel H1N1 Swine Flu?
The new H1N1 swine flu virus emerged early in the spring of 2009, as a changed animal virus that suddenly had the capability to infect humans. This recent H1N1, and other novel viruses, are so dangerous because the human immune system has no previous experience battling them.
Once infected with a new infectious agent, such as a virus or bacterium, the human immune system needs about two weeks to completely respond to the point that it can work to battle the infection. A lot can happen in two weeks. With particularly virulent and dangerous infectious agents, a person can become severely ill, or even die, before the immune system is able to launch a counter attack.
How to Prepare for Fall Flu Season
Remember that vaccines are used to prevent, not treat, infectious disease. Antiviral drugs, such as Tamiflu, are currently being stockpiled; ready for use if needed to treat those that become infected with influenza.
The best ways to stay healthy this flu season are:* Always wash hands at regular intervals to reduce the chance of infection.
* Teach your family the proper method of coughing and sneezing, into fabric, such as a sleeve, rather than into the hands.
* Speak with the family physician about which members of the family will need which flu vaccine: seasonal influenza or H1N1 swine flu.
* Find out when the vaccines will be available in your area, and get vaccinated as scheduled.
* Watch the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) or the World Health Organization’s (WHO) websites for updates to their influenza recommendations.
* Learn about the WHO Pandemic Alert Phases.