H1N1 influenza is predicted to be everywhere this fall, but keeping yourself -- and those around you -- healthy is a fairly low-tech job, experts say. Like most influenza viruses, H1N1 is spread through coughs and sneezes, and sometimes from touching a surface an infected person has coughed or sneezed on.
To Avoid Infection
- Wash your hands frequently, and keep them away from your face.
- Keep shared surfaces like doorknobs and keyboards clean.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue when possible and trash it right away. (Surgical masks are not thought to help much.) Alternately, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.
- If you're sick, stay home -- until 24 hours after fever has abated. If the virus is caught within 48 hours, a doctor can prescribe antiviral medicines to keep you from getting very sick.
Vaccines should be available by October, and available (for Allegheny County residents) through the Allegheny County Health Department. Vaccines might require more than one injection.
Be sure to get shots if you: are pregnant; live with or care for children under 6 months old; are a health-care or emergency-services worker; are ages 6 months to 24 years; or have pre-existing conditions like diabetes or a weakened immune system. Local health departments are awaiting word from the federal Centers on Disease Control on how the vaccines will be distributed. For updates, see www.achd.net.