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Health officials began receiving the first “swine flu” vaccines around the country this week, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had already reported significant influenza activity in virtually all of the states.
Ninety-eight percent of the flu cases reported were determined to be the swine flu also known as the 2009 H1N1 Flu. The CDC does not publish a confirmed number of H1N1 cases, but there were 593 confirmed deaths due to H1N1 from April through the end of August.
While trying to control the pandemic, health officials are finding that compared with seasonal influenza, the 2009 H1N1 flu is unpredictable. For example, although about 36,000 people over 65 years of age die from seasonal flu each year that age group is rarely affected by the H1N1 virus, according to Kathleen Sebelius, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, during a White House conference.
It has affected more people under the age of 65, including many pregnant women. Others considered at a high risk for H1N1 are the same as those at high risk for influenza. All high risk groups will receive vaccinations before the general population.
“Minority communities are no more or less at risk for H1N1 then any other communities,” said Sebelius.
African Americans and other minorities also have higher rates of chronic illness, such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes– all underlying conditions that make it more likely that the flu can be very serious.
Dr. Mark Johnson, chair of the department of family medicine at the University of Medicine and Dentistry at the New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey, has not only encountered several cases of swine flu, but he teaches other doctors about how to diagnose and treat patients with it. BlackEnterprise.com talked with Johnson about the condition and its vaccine.
BlackEnterprise.com: What are the symptoms of swine flu?
Dr. Mark Johnson: There are certain signs or symptoms that you should consider emergency warning signs. In children, look for fast or troubled breathing, lethargy, irritability, unsocial interactions, or bluish skin color, which may indicate they are not getting enough oxygen due to respiratory problems.
In adults, the danger signs might be shortness of breath, chest pain, significant pain in the abdomen, confusion, dizziness, or severe and persistent vomiting.
If you experience these symptoms should you go to the emergency room?
No. Don’t go to the ER unless you have a very high fever or other dangerous symptom that you can’t control with Tylenol or ibuprofen. Going to the ER can actually be a dangerous thing because you are more likely to go to a place in which there will be a lot of people who do have the flu. If you are concerned you should call your physician.