With the end of summer creeping up on us (already? boooo!), the annual seasonal flu season is also right around the corner. So what happens when seasonal flu meets the growing H1N1 flu pandemic (also know as swine flu)? Health officials have been giving this a lot of thought lately, and the White House organized the H1N1 Influenza Preparedness Summit last week at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., to discuss the situation. The most important message of the summit? Everyone, from the government and schools to families and individuals, must be prepared.
“We ask the American people to become actively engaged with their own preparation and prevention,” said Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. secretary of health and human services, said during the summit. “It’s a responsibility we all share.”
Federal, state and local officials will be doing their part to get ready for a possible increase of H1N1 flu cases in the fall, and as individuals, we can all respond to this call in many ways:
* Wash your hands frequently — it really does help! Don’t touch your hands to your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are squeaky clean.
* Keep your immune system strong by exercising and eating healthy foods.
* Cover your coughs and sneezes so that you don’t spread illness to others. Stay home from work, school or camp and avoid crowds when you’re feeling under the weather. If you’re feeling really sick, go to a doctor!
* Don’t get caught up in the media hype. Stick to trusted sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Flu.gov for your information.
It’s also important that when a vaccine comes out that at-risk groups make sure and get vaccinated. A vaccine may be available by mid-October, and children, pregnant women, the elderly and health care workers will be among the first targets for the vaccine.
The flu summit also launched a new video contest on preventing H1N1 flu. Create a short public service announcement that encourages people to take steps to prevent the spread of the flu and you can win $2,500. The deadline for submissions is Aug. 17, so sharpen up those scripts and schedule your actors now to help fight the flu and get America prepared!