Protect family against H1N1

Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 3:32 p.m.

After the holidays are over, life goes on. Then, we find ourselves working toward establishing the day-to-day routines that help us make the most of our lives for the rest of the year. Establishing order places us in a position to go to work, pay the bills, get the children off to school or college and move on with our lives.

Fortunately, moving on with our lives this time of the year has a focus called New Year's resolutions. We all know the obvious ones. They are the ones we make about how much we are not going to spend this year, and of course, how much weight we will lose this year.

I want to take the health concern one step farther and ask that you set as your focus your health in general. With the broadening of this concept, you can look at health measures that are preventive in nature and/or those prescribed as treatments for existing conditions.

Preventive measures are the steps that you take before the problem can manifest itself. Thinking of the word prevention always leads me to the common community conditions that were the mumps, measles, chicken pox, tetanus and polio, which were thriving and are remembered by me and my childhood friends.

I knew that at some point I might have one of these conditions, which were not preventable at that time. Discovery of prevention measures to combat some of these conditions started as early as the 1940s, when the tetanus vaccination evolved. The polio vaccine followed that discovery during the 1950s. The protection of the masses is the goal of this type of research.

Although a single individual may become ill with a communicable disease, the spread of such an illness may develop into one of global concern without the presence of agencies that are in charge of preventing such an occurrence.

Once again, the push is toward vaccination. This time, the offender is the H1N1 virus. Unfortunately, as we continue through this flu season, we hear or read about lives that are lost to the newest flu-causing virus.

If you have not been able to access information regarding who should get the vaccination or when and where you can find answers, please contact the Alachua County Health Department.

I have always found them to be a valuable resource for questions regarding communicable disease health issues. I have found that they are the ones to answer your questions or send you to a source where the answers can be found. I really want to emphasize that flu season is not over and strongly suggest that you take advantage of getting all of your questions answered as soon as possible so that you and your family can be protected.

Here, in our county, there is a group of dedicated citizens working in conjunction with the Alachua County Health Department in their efforts to get the flu vaccinations (including the H1N1) into our schools. Others counties are not so fortunate and do not have a flu clinic in their county.

I have grandchildren in another Florida county who would benefit from such an initiative if it existed, but they are at a disadvantage. Their search for the vaccine was quite different from ours in Alachua County. They searched for the vaccine because their pediatrician was not offering it at his office.

Whether to get the vaccination or have children vaccinated is still a decision to be made for some families. If you are among the folk who are pondering this decision, be sure that you are availing yourself to the best information that you can find. Information from the Health Department, your personal physician and/or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are great resources.

Some concern with the first round of the vaccine has been reported in the news and may be of concern to many people.

When I spoke with a medical member of the team at the Alachua County Health Department, she was not concerned about the loss of potency found in the first round of the vaccine for children and stated she would encourage compliance with having the second of the two-vaccine series.

The value of having children vaccinated against the H1N1, according to Anne Schushcat from the CDC when she appeared on a national health show, was quite an accomplishment for the nation.

Her statement then and a quote from the CDC Web site state that it is believed that more than 60 million children have received the vaccine. She sanctioned this accomplishment by stating how important it is to cover the children at a higher number than that of the adults because children seem to be at greater risk with this particular form of the virus. The Web site also supports the fact that seasonal flu usually hits the elderly hard, but swine flu has impacted children and young adults the most.

The flu clinic still is available for some Alachua County school children. Complete information on the school that has completed the clinics as well as those where visits are still to come is included on the School Board's Web site. According to Josephine McElrath, ARNP, the assistant community health nursing director at the Health Department, the following information may be helpful as you make plans for your child:

If your child attends a school where the H1N1 clinic already has been held, contact the Health Department and get the vaccination there.

You also can go to the School Board Web site to find the schedule for the H1N1 vaccinations and the consent form you need to fill out, sign and return to the school.

If you have not received a consent form and are aware of the scheduled vaccination for your school, you also can download it from the Web site.

For children who are enrolled at day care centers or private schools, check with the schools for the scheduled date of the H1N1 clinic.

If your child attends P.K. Yonge, the school has administered the first dose and the second dose is scheduled to be given Tuesday.

As always, I suggest that every pastor and spiritual leader support their congregations by encouraging them to take advantage of this opportunity for their benefit and that of the people they meet.

All adults need to know what their doctor's opinion is in terms of whether they should receive the vaccine. The general rule, as reported in the media, seems to point toward children and pregnant women as the first to need the vaccination.

Several schools of thought support the fact that the elderly are not at the top of the list for being the first group that should receive this vaccine.

That chain of thought seems to point to the fact that we have a higher level of protection based on factors related to our past exposures.

I continue to stress the need to stay home and out of the presence of others if you are ill. Talk with your doctor about how soon you should resume your normal activities. I also caution you to remember how to cough and sneeze into a tissue or the crook of your arm. It is always appropriate to wash your hands, (soap, running water, friction, 20 seconds or the birthday song twice).

Have a healthy new year.

Vivian Filer is a retired professor of nursing at Santa Fe College. E-mail your questions, with "Health Files" in the subject line, to

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