The American Red Cross recommends that people follow common-sense public health practices and get prepared as the H1N1 flu virus spreads across the United States.
Swine flu is spreading particularly quickly on the nation's college and university campuses now that school is back in session. According to a weekly survey by the American College Health Association, 72 percent of the schools surveyed reported flu cases at their schools.
The official start of the 2009 influenza season is October 4. However, according to the latest report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only two states, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, have reported no flu activity. Full details are available at www.flu.gov.
You can take these simple steps to help prevent the spread of the flu:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
- Wash your hands often, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you're sick.
Common signs of the swine flu include high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, a cough, runny or stuffy nose and vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Having these indications doesn't always mean you have the flu. If you develop flu-like symptoms and are concerned about possible complications, consult your health care provider.
During a pandemic, officials may have to limit your movement or impose travel restrictions to help prevent the virus from spreading. Schools, businesses and other places where the public gathers may close temporarily. The Red Cross recommends that you make sure you are prepared at home, and in your community. For full details, visit our Pandemic preparedness information.
"Now's the time for everyone to get prepared," said Scott Conner, Red Cross senior vice president, preparedness and health and safety services, "This is the first worldwide flu pandemic in 41 years. We all need to do what we can to get our homes and families ready."
In addition to the steps outlined above, college students should get vaccinated. Because the H1N1 and seasonal flu viruses are different, people will need to get separate vaccinations for each flu strain. Students planning to get the seasonal flu vaccine should do it now, and then get the H1N1 flu vaccine when available. Initial vaccination efforts will focus on five groups, including young people between 6 months and 24 years of age.
As the number of swine flu cases grows, there may be fewer people able to give blood. The Red Cross is committed to protecting the nation's blood supply and is confident we will continue to provide blood and blood products to the patients who need it. Anyone who is at least 17 years old, weighs at least 110 pounds and is in good health may give blood. Some states allow 16-year-olds to donate with parental consent. For more information, or to schedule a donation time, visit www.givelife.org or call 1-800-GIVE LIFE.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies nearly half of the nation's blood; teaches lifesaving skills; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at http://blog.redcross.org.