Department of Health talks swine flu with Holme Circle Civic

Myths, misconceptions and general concerns about swine flu brought Holme Circle residents together last night to get the facts from the Philadelphia Department of Health.

Eric Foster, a nurse epidemiologist for the agency talked with the roughly 10 Holme Circle Civic Association meeting attendees about how to prevent, recognize and treat season flu and swine flu, also referred to as H1N1.

Foster presented a slideshow to an interested audience, which included statistics and other factual information about both flues.

As far as the seasonal flu goes, there are between 25 million and 50 million cases per year in the U.S., 36,000 of which result in death. The height of the flu season is December through March and is most common in the very young and the elderly.

H1N1, Foster said, is “novel,” since it was first detected in April of this year. Unlike the seasonal flu, swine flu is more apt to infect those younger than 50, and those suffering from ongoing medical conditions. Though H1N1 is the predominant strain circulating this year, Foster explained, “it’s not the only [flu] virus that will circulate.” The threat of swine flu does not eliminate the possibility of catching a seasonal flu.

Foster also provided information about vaccines for both flues.

Seasonal Vaccine

  • recommend for people between 6 months and 18 years of age, and those older than 50
  • strongly suggested for women who are pregnant, or will be pregnant during flu season
  • healthcare workers should get vaccinated, as should those who care for children under age 4 and the elderly
  • nursing home patients and those with pre-exisitng medical conditions are also encouraged to get vaccinated

Swine Flu Vaccine

  • recommended for people between 6 months and 24 years of age, in addition to people 24 to 64 years old who face other health risks
  • similar to the seasonal flu, pregnant women are encouraged to get vaccinated
  • it’s suggested healthcare and EMS workers, in addition to those who care for infants under 6 months of age should get vaccinated

Swine Flu Q&A with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health

Holme Circle residents asked nurse epidemiologist Eric Foster questions about H1N1 and its vaccine.

Where did swine flu come from? Swine flu is a strain consisting of genes from humans, pigs and birds, with animal cases first detected in Europe and Asia. The first human cases were discovered in Mexico.

Where did the government buy the vaccines? From the same three European companies which provide the seasonal flu vaccines.

How safe is the H1N1 vaccine? “The government wouldn’t release the vaccine without due diligence and is not anticipating any issues. Flu vaccines are typically safe, and are 90-95% effective.”

Foster ended his presentation with one final piece of advice: “Think of it in terms of ‘what is the risk of not getting [the vaccine].'”

Foster informed those interested in getting vaccinated that it’s possible to receive both vaccinations at once if they opt for the injection. But those seeking the nasal mist vaccination for both flues are advised to wait 28 to 30 days between vaccines.

Vaccines for both flues are available at many citywide locations, but those in high-risk groups remain a priority for the H1N1 vaccine until the government is able to provide more. Foster stressed the importance of the swine flu vaccine for pregnant women. While they make up only about 1 percent of the population, he said, 6 percent of them die from the flu.

Symptoms of both flues include fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, chills, extreme tiredness, runny or stuffy nose and diarrhea and vomiting. H1N1 typically brings on more gastro-intestinal problems, and symptoms of both flues may take up to four days to prevent themselves, though the viruses are still active.

For more information about seasonal flu and H1N1 and where to get their vaccines, you can call the Department of Health at 215-685-6458, or visit the Centers for Disease Control or Philadelphia Public Health Web sites.

Also at last night’s meeting…Holme Circle Civic has five new members, and is looking for more. Holme Circle Town Watch is also in need of members…The group is still awaiting a decision on the springtime common pleas court hearing regarding the T-Mobile cell phone towers on the 2800-block of Axe Factory Road. If the towers are not taken down, the civic association will look to negotiate with the company about a change in the towers’ appearance. Medical concerns regarding the towers are “suspected but not proven,” said HCCA President Sean McAleer.

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