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H1N1 virus still valid concern for Kitsap

The facts about swine flu, H1N1 influenza A, have been around since the virus first hit Washington last spring causing about 160 hospitalizations and 14 deaths in its little more than one year existence.

Today, however, Washington’s top insurance officials are urging health insurers to ensure as many Washingtonians as possible have access to H1N1 vaccine and treatment.

“So far, this flu has proven less virulent than initially feared,” said state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “But we want insurers to be fully prepared for what looks to be a challenging flu season. Working together, we can minimize the impact of both swine flu and regular seasonal flu.”

Tracking of the virus is being conducted statewide in preparation of the vaccine being released later in the fall.

“We’re tracking H1N1 closely in our state so we can learn from every case and be even more prepared this fall,” said state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. “Once the new H1N1 vaccine arrives in October, kids and pregnant women will be among the first to receive it.”

The Department of Health is encouraging every citizen to get vaccinated against the seasonal flu as soon as possible and to get vaccinated against H1N1 as soon as it is available as people will need to receive both vaccines in order to be fully protected.

Scott Daniels, deputy director of Kitsap County Health District, said Kitsap County can expect to deal with the virus too.

“H1N1 is no ordinary flu and it’s expected to spread through our schools, neighborhoods and workplaces over the coming weeks,” Daniels said. “Because, in the past, we have not been infected with a virus similar to H1N1, many people will not have natural immunity to the new virus and that will increase the ability of the virus to spread. Unlike the usual seasonal flu, it will cause more illnesses in children and young adults under 25 years of age, and fewer illnesses in older adults.”

For people who do contract the virus, Daniels said the symptoms will not seem different from those of the traditional flu.

“For most people, it will feel very much like the usual seasonal flu,” he said. “Symptoms for H1N1 include fever/chills, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, nausea/vomiting and diarrhea. Illness has ranged from mild to severe and most people have recovered without needing medical treatment. However, some hospitalizations and deaths have occurred.”

There are a few things people can do to deter the spread of the virus:

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve when you cough or sneeze. Don’t cover your cough with your hand. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Don’t share glasses or eating utensils.

• Stay home from school or work if you are sick.

• Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

The Kitsap County Health District and the Kitsap County Department of Emergency Management are conducting two meetings for the public to learn more about the H1N1 flu virus.

The first is from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 28 at the Poulsbo Fire Station, 911 NE Liberty Road. The second meeting is slated for 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 29 at the Kitsap Library, Sylvan Way Branch, 1301 Sylvan Way in Bremerton.

For more information, call the Kitsap County Health District at (360) 337-5235 or visit www.flu.gov, www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu, www.doh.wa.gov/h1n1 or www.kitsapcountyhealth.com.

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