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Health Department gearing up for flu season

Grand Rapids, MI – In preparation for the upcoming flu season, the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is making plans to educate and vaccinate Kent County residents this fall. The novel H1N1 flu that garnered much attention last spring is expected to circulate with seasonal influenza viruses during the 2009-2010 flu season.

“There has been much speculation that this fall and winter could bring more severe illness related to the flu,” said Cathy Raevsky, Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. “By planning now, we hope to increase awareness of the flu this fall through education and vaccination, and mitigate the effects of seasonal and novel influenza A H1N1 in our community.”

H1N1 emerged as a new type of flu last spring and in June, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that a global pandemic was underway. The virus continues to spread. Infections have been comparable in severity to those of seasonal flu but because influenza viruses can mutate, it could become more severe.

Symptoms of both types of flu include fever, chills, cough, runny nose, headache, body aches, and fatigue.

KCHD will work with schools to educate students and staff on flu prevention; run ads to heighten awareness of the flu; work with partners like 2-1-1 to make sure information on seasonal and H1N1 flu is available; and prepare to make H1N1 vaccine accessible to everyone in Kent County. This vaccine will be separate from seasonal flu vaccine.

Everyone can take measures to avoid becoming sick this year. The number one way to avoid the flu is to get a flu shot each year. Other protective measures include:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of the tissue.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides without the use of fever-reducing medicine. Stay away from others to avoid making them sick.

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