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H1N1 Cases Accelerate in Georgia as School Starts

First Day of School 2009 - Children are at higher risk for H1N1. Photo: Carson Gleberman
First Day of School '09.Photo:Carson Gleberman

According to the Georgia Department of Health a total of 238 hospitalizations and 9 deaths have been confirmed since late April in the state of Georgia.  194 of those hospitalizations (81%) and 8 of those deaths (89%) have been recorded since July 30.  Neighboring South Carolina is experiencing a similar trend, after recording its first culture positive for H1N1 the weekend ending May 2. In the 19 weeks that followed there were an average 31 positives per week.  The week ending September 5 South Carolina recorded 65 positives. Now that school is back is session and the weather is getting cooler we can expect the number of new cases in Georgia to maintain current volumes or increase.

Here are 5 essential guidelines for H1N1 protection:

1. Wash your hands often and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when washing is not possible.  Make a lather.  Sing the Happy Birthday song. One of the reasons why children are at greater risk than adults to contract H1N1 is the high amount of social contact they have through school and other activities. Yet social contact is not limited to direct contact with humans. Consider the copier machine, the water cooler and the gas pump to be potential sources of contamination.

2. Sneeze and cough into your sleeve.  Old habits die hard but this is a big way to protect the copier or the vending machines from contamination. The H1N1 virus is spread through droplets emitted from sneezes and coughs.  These invisible intruders are only airborne so long before they land on the objects around us.

3. Learn proper disinfection techniques.  Most of us spray and wipe, right?  Read the product instructions carefully on household disinfectants.  For disinfection to be successful, dwell times of several minutes are necessary.  Essentially you must saturate counters, fixtures, floors, etc. to kill germs and bacteria. For this reason, don't trust anti-bacterial wipes without reading the label.  Think about this when you're grabbing that complimentary sanitary wipe with your grocery cart.

4. Learn the symptoms and call your doctor for further instruction if you experience any of the following: coughing, fever, runny nose, sneezing, headache, body aches, fatigue, nausea or diarrhea.

5. Stay home from school and work if you have any flu symptoms.  Avoiding spreading H1N1 is as central to defeating this pandemic as avoiding getting the disease is.

For more info:  Visit the CDC website.