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No confirmed H1N1- yet

With a second wave of the H1N1 novel influenza virus just starting to hit, Perham area schools and clinics are readying themselves to take on the new challenges the flu will bring.

"There have been suspected cases in Perham," Mary Mayer, Director of Quality at Perham Memorial Hospital and Home, says of the local prevalence of the H1N1 virus.

However, Mayer explains that in order for it to be confirmed, the influenza test must be sent to the Minnesota Department of Health in the Twin Cities. Right now, hospitals are only required to send the tests if patients require hospitalization.

For now, Mayer says the hospital is trying to diminish the fear-based hype associated with the non-seasonal strain of influenza and encourage people to practice basic protective measures.

"We're focusing on telling people to stay home if they're having symptoms and not to come into the clinic unless they're having trouble breathing or symptoms like that," Mayer reports. In essence, they're encouraging people to treat a possible H1N1 illness the same way as they would the regular flu.

There have been no confirmed cases yet at New York Mills Public Schools by laboratory standards, Superintendent Todd Cameron said, although they have seen an increase in students with seasonal flu.

There is a screening tool being used that I don't fully understand that suspects H1N1 and does provide a positive, but can't confirm which strain of influenza unless a lab is used.

With constantly changing guidelines on how to best deal with the H1N1 novel influenza, Perham Memorial Hospital continues to work with organizations such as Otter Tail County Public Health and the Minnesota Department of Public Health to keep our community healthy.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. Seasonal influenza occurs each year during "flu season." H1N1 novel influenza is a new flu virus that is not seasonal. Seasonal influenza and H1N1 are both flu viruses, but differ slightly with symptoms, those who are most vulnerable, vaccine availability, and the time of year they affect people.

The following information is provided by the Minnesota Department of Public Health.

Basic precautions to avoid influenza

--Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve.

--Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

--Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

--Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

--Stay healthy: eat nutritious foods, get enough sleep and exercise.

--If sick, stay home until fever free for 24 hours without using fever reducing medications (Tylenol or Ibuprofen).

--Get your seasonal flu shot yearly.

What if I or a loved one gets sick?

--Stay home from work or school. This means not leaving home unless you need to seek medical care.

--Get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco.

--Use over-the-counter (OTC) medications to relieve the symptoms of the flu (but never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms, particularly fever).

--Call your doctor to see if there is a need to be evaluated for treatment. Antivirals (prescribed medication) work best if started very early in the course of illness.

--You may be asked to wear a mask when you see the doctor if you are coughing.

Most healthy people recover from the flu without complications in about 5-7 days. If you have severe illness or you are at high risk for flu complications, contact your health care provider or seek medical care. Your health care provider will determine whether flu testing or treatment is needed.

When to seek emergency medical care

Seek emergency medical care if you or someone you know is having any of the following warning signs.

In children:

--Fast breathing or trouble breathing

--Bluish skin color

--Not drinking enough fluids (dark colored urine or no tears when crying)

--Not waking up or not interacting

--Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

--Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and cough worsens

--Fever with a rash

In adults:

--Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

--Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

--Sudden dizziness


--Severe or persistent vomiting

Cleaning tips

Flu viruses can live on objects and surfaces from 2 to 8 hours after being deposited. The flu virus can be killed by a mild bleach solution (one part bleach to 10 parts water), detergents and soap, and alcohol based sanitizers if used properly.

Keep surfaces clean by wiping them down with a household disinfectant according to label instructions. Eating utensils and dishes can be washed as normal. Linens and towels should be washed and dried on a hot setting. Avoid "hugging" dirty laundry and wash your hands with soap and water after handling dirty laundry.