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Thanks to DemFromCT, we've had a great source of H1N1 information here on dKos. One would think that local health departments would be the local clearinghouses for H1N1 information. In our case, one would be wrong.

I've nagged. I e-mailed the head of our health department - no reply. I wrote a column for the paper; the short version will be published today. The paper did a story about the H1N1 flu, and I suspect that my whining contributed to that. Our health department finally got off their butts and put up a single graphic and a whopping 3 links (to the CDC, to flu.gov, and one swiped entirely from the State).

Below the fold is the long version. Please swipe my column and send it as a Letter to the Editor to your local newspaper. It should be 250 words or less, so take out your butcher knives and chop away. Try to leave in the important stuff, the whats and the whys, OK? GET THE INFORMATION OUT THERE!

Dear Editor,

I've noticed that although the H1N1 flu virus (swine flu) has been known since late March 2009, and was declared to be a pandemic problem months ago (June 2009), the Clark County Health Department didn't have even a single word about it anywhere on their web site. The time to prepare for the H1N1 flu is now, not a few months from now. There have already been cases of the H1N1 flu in schools in 4 Kentucky counties, one of them in Bourbon county, just a few miles away. This is not the regular seasonal flu. The pandemic status of the H1N1 flu does NOT mean that we need to panic and we're going to die. "Pandemic" just means that the problem is worldwide and is not likely to go away. The things people need to do to prepare for the pandemic H1N1 flu are very similar to what people need to do to prepare for the regular flu.

Since our local Health Department has failed to inform the public, I would like to take the opportunity to do so. All of my information comes from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta and their flu preparedness pages (such as http://www.cdc.gov/... Anyone who wants more information can go to the CDC's home page ( http://www.cdc.gov/ ) or to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services flu pages ( http://www.pandemicflu.gov/ ). One very good source of information tells people how people get the flu, and how it is spread ( http://www.pandemicflu.gov/... ). I would like to summarize this information for your readers and the public at large.

First, the most important thing people can do to avoid getting the flu or spreading the flu is wash their hands, frequently, with soap and water. If soap and water is not available, people can and should use an alcohol-based hand cleanser like Purell. This will allow people to keep the flu virus from traveling from their hands to their mouths and noses. It will also help people stop the spread of the H1N1 virus by killing the virus instead of spreading it to the things they touch.

Second, people need to remember to cover their coughs and sneezes. When people with the flu cough or sneeze, they send the virus through the air to land on any available surface or on other people. The best thing for people to do is to carry tissues with them, and throw the tissues away after use. If a tissue isn't handy, people can cover their sneezes and coughs by coughing or sneezing into fabric such as their sleeves. Sneezing or coughing into their hands prevents the virus from traveling through the air, but results in virus-covered hands that will spread the virus to everything the person touches. Sneezing or coughing into a sleeve might result in a yucky sleeve, but the flu virus won't spread anywhere from someone's sleeve.

Third, people who do get sick with the flu should stay home for 24 hours after the fever goes away. This may be difficult, since children with the flu need to be cared for and adults with the flu need to earn a living. However, if children or adults with the flu stay home when they're sick, they will not spread the flu to others.

Fourth, people should get both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine when they become available. This will keep people from getting the flu, and people who don't get the flu won't be spreading it to other people.

Fifth, the CDC says that people who have been sick should wipe down surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, kitchen counters, children's play areas, and bathroom surfaces and fixtures in their homes or workplaces with a disinfectant. Remember, though, that this disinfecting isn't permanent! Once someone sneezes, the surface is contaminated again and needs to be wiped down again.

In a pandemic, there may be many people sick, and people may not be able to get up to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy. There are some things that people can do to prepare for a pandemic that they might not usually do. A very good list of these things can be found online at http://www.flu.gov/... People should stock up on foods that won't go bad, such as dry cereal, ready-to-eat canned foods, and drinking water. If people take medicines, they should try to keep a supply of  medicine ready at home, but it would be a good idea to keep some aspirin at home, too. People with babies should keep some extra formula in the house. People with pets should keep some extra pet food on hand. It's also a good idea to keep some soap, tissues, batteries, a radio, and a flashlight handy in case a tree falls on a line nearby and a lot of electric company employees are sick. If someone is unable to go to the store, that person will need some handy supplies that can be used until health returns. People don't have to spend a lot of money all at once. For example, they can buy an extra jug of water and a can of beans every time they go to the store.

Businesses, schools, community, church, and other organizations can find good information about what they can do to prevent the spread of the flu by reading the "Planning Checklists" page ( http://www.pandemicflu.gov/... ) on the DHHS's flu web site. Every business or group in Clark County can contribute to keeping the flu virus away by following the DHHS suggestions.

The H1N1 pandemic is not something to be terrified of. It is, however, something to prepare for - now.

Sincerely,

  1. Look up the web page of your local health department.
  1. Grab this column, or grab the short version.
  1. Chop it down to an appropriate length.
  1. Send it as a Letter to the Editor.

Please GET THIS INFORMATION OUT to the people around you. The health and possibly the lives of you and everyone in your community may depend on it.

Thank you. And of course, thanks again to DemFromCT for making sure we became aware of the problem.

Originally posted to SciMathGuy on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:08 AM PDT.

Poll

Are you prepared for a pandemic?

35%18 votes
25%13 votes
23%12 votes
15%8 votes

| 51 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Jip tar. (15+ / 0-)

    If you want to be a bit more activist, you might point out in your letter than the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and local health departments are all... government-run.

    We no longer have Ted Kennedy to fight the Good Fight or Walter Cronkite to tell us about it. Each one of us must now wear a small bit of their mantles.

    by SciMathGuy on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:08:35 AM PDT

    •  Would that work? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Russgirl, SciMathGuy

      If you want to be a bit more activist, you might point out in your letter than the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC), the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), and local health departments are all... government-run.

      The teabaggers are so anti-government and in such a state of denial they'll spin this information as a "scare tactic" to get Americans to support health reform.

      Unfortunately, it is a human habit to disregard warnings like this until it is too late.  Then people will be scrambling around, panicking, and doing few things that are constructive.

      It's good to remind people who DO forward planning to consider what they can do to prevent themselves from coming down with H1N1, but the majority will sit on their a**es, get sick and then blame the government.

      The land was ours before we were the land's...Robert Frost, The Gift Outright

      by HylasBrook on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:20:37 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's overblown (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wilberforce, Russgirl, SteveP

    ...just like Bird Flu last year and Swine Flu back in the 1970s.

    •  No, it's not. (5+ / 0-)

      Please see Story #2 in this diary.

      We no longer have Ted Kennedy to fight the Good Fight or Walter Cronkite to tell us about it. Each one of us must now wear a small bit of their mantles.

      by SciMathGuy on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:21:51 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  three anecdotes does not (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Russgirl

        make a persuasive case on anything.

        We need to separate two things - the idiots who say innoculations kill people, and the numerous studies, in fact nearly all of them, that show that flu innoculation regimes on healthy adults don't help.  There are many of them. In fact, such schemes end up with more lost work time in addition to the expense and no real affect on mortality rates.  Further H1N1 panic has already lead to deaths by over crowding ond over use of scarce medical resources for non-emergency issues.  This is in addition to the spending of medical dollars on ineffective regimes instead of decent primary care which actually would lower mortality rates for all kinds of things. The amount of resources being used to fight H1N1, pandemic yes, but which has not mutated into a virus that is more serious than seasonal, would insure 1 million children.  The lack of that insurance is a bigger killer than H1N1 is ever likely to be.

        H1N1 has the potential to become a killer but as of now, it has an extraordinarily low mortality rate for these things.  Seasonal flu vaccinations have always been a boondoggle that COST society even when the vaccine is well matched to the strains of virus which it is usually not.

        But I am sure the makers of flu shots, Pureell and tissues will appreciate the boost....

        "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

        by SteveP on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:42:32 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Epidemiologists disagree. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          math4barack

          And I do sincerely hope that you wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer anyway.

          As for the utility of vaccines - I'll stick with the CDC's recommendations.

          We no longer have Ted Kennedy to fight the Good Fight or Walter Cronkite to tell us about it. Each one of us must now wear a small bit of their mantles.

          by SciMathGuy on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:54:07 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  SOME do (0+ / 0-)

            many do not.

            Here's a good starting point.

            last season, the vaccine missed the type B strain entirely

            Washing hands is always a good idea. But multi-billion dollar campaigns on therapies that have been proven NOT to work is a foolish expenditure of healthcare dollars.

            Raising the scare level of this as yet very mild form of flu will continue to cause people to crowd limited health care resources despite the warnings not to and that has a very real cost in terms of effective therapies that cannot be delivered.

            And epidemiologists agree with these statements despite the problems of those three people.

            "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

            by SteveP on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 08:06:20 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  And here (0+ / 0-)

            A growing number of immunologists and epidemiologists say the vaccine probably does not work very well for people over 70, the group that accounts for three-fourths of all flu deaths.

            The latest blow was a study in The Lancet last month that called into question much of the statistical evidence for the vaccine’s effectiveness.

            The authors said previous studies had measured the wrong thing: not any actual protection against the flu virus but a fundamental difference between the kinds of people who get vaccines and those who do not.

            The report is actually more damning than this snip in the NY Times

            One guys says:

            The National Vital Statistics Reports compiled by the CDC show that only 1,138 deaths a year occur due to influenza alone (257 in 2001, 727 in 2002, 1,792 in 2003, 1,100 in 2004, and 1,812 in 2005). Bacterial pneumonia causes some 60,000 deaths each year, mainly in the winter, when surveillance data show increased prevalence of the flu virus. Using a mathematical (Poisson) regression model, officials estimate that the flu virus triggers some of the winter-time deaths from pneumonia, along with deaths in people with cardiovascular disease and other chronic illnesses. More than 34,000 of those "36,000" flu deaths are what officials estimate are "influenza-associated" pneumonic and cardiovascular deaths.

            Those CDC numbers linked here.

            and:

            There is also a lack of evidence that young children benefit from flu shots. A systematic review of 51 studies involving 260,000 children age 6 to 23 months found no evidence that the flu vaccine is any more effective than a placebo (Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006;1:CD004879).

            Further, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association - no foe of the pharmaceutical industry as summarized by Miller:

            Randomized controlled trials are the most reliable way to determine the efficacy – and safety – of a given treatment. No randomized trials show that flu shots reduce mortality from influenza or flu-related pneumonia. Some do show that the flu vaccine is somewhat effective in preventing influenza. In one widely quoted study, 1838 volunteers age 60 and over were randomized to receive a flu shot or placebo (a shot of saline). The flu shot reduced the relative risk of contracting (serologically confirmed, clinical) influenza by a seemingly impressive 50%. The incidence of influenza in the unvaccinated people in this study was 3%. In the vaccinated group it was 2% (JAMA 1994;272:1661–5). Flu shots reduced the absolute risk of contracting influenza by a meager 1% (not 50%, as the "relative risk" portrays it). In actuality, for every 100 people that have a flu shot only one will benefit from it – this, in medical parlance, is the "number needed to treat" (NNT) in order to achieve any benefit from the treatment. A flu shot provides no benefit for the other 99 people – 2 of them will get influenza anyway

            And in fact, the studies the Times cite indicate that even this low absolute 'benefit' which is not related to mortality, is probably not due to the vaccinne in any case.

            "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

            by SteveP on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 08:25:06 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  H1N1 tends to kill younger folks. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              math4barack

              This is about the H1N1 flu, not the seasonal flu. However, keep in mind that flu-associated deaths would not have occurred without the patient getting the flu!

              Many older folks who were exposed to the 1957 flu may be less susceptible to H1N1. On the other side, those folks are more susceptible to illness in general.

              If you don't want to get any flu vaccines, feel free not to get any flu vaccines. However, current data from the CDC seems to indicate that younger and middle-aged folks are more likely to get H1N1, and the mortality may be seen more in those groups than in older people. Since H1N1 hasn't mutated yet, it's more likely that vaccination will protect the patient from it. The seasonal flu is a horse of an entirely different colour.

              Keep washing your hands. Buy an extra jug of water and an extra can of beans or two. Think "ice storm."

              BTW, the EPA has a list of approved anti-influenza A disinfectants together with a list of their components. If you choose to dislike name brands, there are plenty of other brands that have the same ingredients. Be careful what you buy, though. Poorer folks who buy hand sanitizers in deep-discount stores may end up with sanitizers that don't work. One must have at least 60% ethanol in a hand sanitizer gel for the gel to be effective.

              We no longer have Ted Kennedy to fight the Good Fight or Walter Cronkite to tell us about it. Each one of us must now wear a small bit of their mantles.

              by SciMathGuy on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 08:54:08 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  some problems (0+ / 0-)

                However, keep in mind that flu-associated deaths would not have occurred without the patient getting the flu!

                Thi is the #1 reason why people get these vaccines needlessly. And no studies show that flu vaccine lowers mortality rates.

                None.

                and the mortality may be seen more in those groups than in older people.

                "May" is the key word.  H1N1 mortality is extremely low. Epidemiologists are still sorting through the mortality result in Mexico. It is true that H1N1 has properties that could make it into a more dangerous strain than typical seasonal strains, but it is not there yet, and it is unlikely that any vaccination now, would protect people from the mutated version, it's technically possible it would, but neither certain nor likely.

                The seasonal flu is a horse of an entirely different colour.

                From an epidemiological standpoint it is not - in fact H1N1 is another "type A" like the two type A's a seasonal vaccine might try to cover. What makes H1N1 different is it's theoretical ability to attack different parts of the body and its pandemic status. What is NOT different is the general effectiveness of vaccines in preventing it.

                It makes sense to have some medical preparation, but it does not make much sense to spend billions of dollars on proven ineffective strategies to mitigate the severe consequences. What the vaccination regime will likely do is diminish mortality not one jot, but limit the inconvenience of flu symptoms for a handful of people....because this is what widespread flu vaccination regimes do at tremendous cost.

                "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

                by SteveP on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 09:09:11 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

  •  As a teacher (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Russgirl, anotherdemocrat, SciMathGuy

    I am very concerned.

    Before schools starts we have a CPR/first aid certification class. I will be mentioniing the flu and preventative steps we need to take during that class.

    To add to your article. Germs live on the door handles of all stores, especially the refrigerator cases. I open them either way high or down low. And yes, Always wash your hands

    Growing old is inevitable...Growing up is purely optional

    by grannycarol on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:30:32 AM PDT

    •  Good point! Thanks! (3+ / 0-)

      I ended up being the "flu guy" where I work, and I need to make sure I ask the people doing the weekly cleaning to disinfect the door handles. I've been spraying mine, but we need to do ALL of them.

      We no longer have Ted Kennedy to fight the Good Fight or Walter Cronkite to tell us about it. Each one of us must now wear a small bit of their mantles.

      by SciMathGuy on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:39:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  All good ideas... VITAMIN D helps! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SciMathGuy

    A cardiac surgeon and Professor of Surgery at the University of Washington recommends ...avoiding the flu shot and taking vitamin D instead.
    Donald Miller, MD, says "Seventy percent of doctors do not get a flu shot."

    http://ecochildsplay.com/...

    Google and do your own research.  This information has been out there on multiple sites for a long time.
    Think about starting to take it now - it wouldn't hurt.

    Anything to increase your immune system so you can combat what's out there - Flu or anything else.

    •  Why not do both? (0+ / 0-)

      As long as one doesn't overdose on the Vitamin D, it won't hurt - and it will at the least help one's bones.

      We no longer have Ted Kennedy to fight the Good Fight or Walter Cronkite to tell us about it. Each one of us must now wear a small bit of their mantles.

      by SciMathGuy on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:55:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The CDC is having a meeting (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SciMathGuy

    down the street from me tomorrow.  I'm going to see what they say, and to make sure that anti-vax cranks are squashed if they appear.

    http://www.keystone.org/...

    I'm really interested to see what this is about, and how it translates into what the CDC will actually do.

    Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

    by mem from somerville on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 08:07:32 AM PDT

    •  A reminder here (0+ / 0-)

      that there are anti-vax crackpots (vaccines KILL, Mercury in your vaccine and so on), but there are serious scientists who doubt the effectiveness of vaccine campaigns. Published in the Lancet, JAMA NEJM and so on. Clinical trials cited in thr NYT and elsewhere (some linkes are in my comments above) show that a growing number of health care professionals doubt the effectiveness of widespread flu vaccinations for otherwise healthy individuals - including the young and the elderly.

      "you have the right to your own opinion. You do not have the right to your own facts" -Daniel Patrick Moynihan

      by SteveP on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 09:12:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are misrepresenting the data (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SciMathGuy

        Because flu shots are not as effective in the elderly we need to be sure the broader population is vaccinated so there's less chance they'll get sick.

        Vaccinations are the best public health tool we have.  

        Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

        by mem from somerville on Fri Aug 28, 2009 at 07:58:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks, mem! n/t (0+ / 0-)

          We no longer have Ted Kennedy to fight the Good Fight or Walter Cronkite to tell us about it. Each one of us must now wear a small bit of their mantles.

          by SciMathGuy on Sat Aug 29, 2009 at 03:27:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  there's a wonderful idea about vaccinating school (0+ / 0-)

          kids that's making the rounds. Vaccinate the spreaders9and try and keep them safe in the process.) Stop them from bringing it home to grandma.  

          New research says the best way to protect society's most vulnerable from the flu: Vaccinate school-age children and their parents.

          Good idea.

          "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

          by Greg Dworkin on Sat Aug 29, 2009 at 07:29:50 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Excellent Diary. Thank you 4 writing it. nt. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SciMathGuy
  •  here's some basics from the Ottowa Citizen (0+ / 0-)

    http://www.ottawacitizen.com/...

    The majority of infectious disease experts predict H1N1 will return this fall, stronger than before. Others are more skeptical.

    "Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Groucho Marx

    by Greg Dworkin on Sat Aug 29, 2009 at 07:30:52 AM PDT

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