The H1N1 influenza strain caused quite a scare across the country after the first case was confirmed in March 2009, but the summer months have shown a decline in the spread of the illness. Indeed, the sickness formerly known as “swine flu” has been all but completely purged from the collective consciousness. Unfortunately, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is predicting a resurgence of the H1N1 virus this fall, during flu season. The department is calling for everyone to exercise good sanitary hygiene to reduce the frequency of contagion.
According to Michele Mickiewicz, public information officer for the Public Health Department, cases of H1N1 will increase in fall and winter just like any other strain of influenza. Although it caused a degree of panic when first identified, H1N1 is not quite the killer that the public originally believed. “We were very concerned because it was a new virus and there were a lot of reported fatalities, but what we found in the United States was that it is not much more dangerous than the regular flu,” Mickiewicz said. “However there are certain populations that are more at risk.” According to Mickiewicz, the virus has proven to be especially dangerous for pregnant women and young children.
With the testing of a new H1N1 vaccine currently underway, the country can expect to be more prepared, come flu season, to combat the spread of the virus. “It’s being tested on the national level right now,” Mickiewicz said. “We estimate that we could see the vaccine here by late October.” The Public Health Department plans to vaccinate those in the highest risk populations first, along with emergency service and healthcare workers and people who take care of infants. “We expect most people who get [H1N1] to make a full recovery,” Mickiewicz said, “but for some it is very serious.”
The Public Health Department is currently unsure of the exact date when the vaccine will be available, or at what quantity, but the Department insists that there are many other ways that residents can slow the flu’s spread. A Public Health Department press release stated that it is highly effective to simply wash or sanitize your hands, avoid coughing or sneezing on your hands, and stay home when you are feeling ill in order to prevent spreading the disease to others. Regardless of whether or not H1N1 is more dangerous than common influenza, Mickiewicz urges the public to realize that even common influenza is to blame for up to 35,000 deaths in the United States annually, so the occurrence of either strain of flu is cause for concern.