Flu season is back, and this season’s strain is a new kind of swine. Flu season is the time of year when the flu virus is most common, it typically begins in the late fall and continues to early spring. Usually 5% to 20% of the population contracts the flu during the flu season. The flu might seem like a common occurrence, and not something to be worried about, but so far 147 people in California have died from the flu this season. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, three people out of those 147 lived in Santa Cruz County and died from H1N1, or as it is most commonly known, the swine flu. Yes, you should be afraid, H1N1 is in the area and ready to infect you and your friends.
In 2009, a H1N1 pandemic swept the world, killing up to 400,000 people, as reported by the U.S. Center for Disease Control. H1N1 is now a contained virus, but that doesn’t mean people are no longer susceptible to it. The three people who were struck down by H1N1 were male, one who was 20, and the other two were in their 40’s and 50’s. It is important to note that most people who die from the flu have underlying medical problems, but even young healthy people are potentially at risk. So even though we are teenagers and we think we can survive anything, we can still get sick from the swine flu.
H1N1 originated in 2009 as a new strain of flu virus and was difficult to treat since a preventative vaccine had not yet been developed. Now we know that it behaves nearly the same as other flu viruses, and there is now a vaccine to prevent H1N1. The Public Health Department in Santa Cruz has reported that H1N1 is spread through contact with infected persons, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The typical symptoms for H1N1 are high fever, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. A less common symptom is acute vomiting, which is the worst thing that could happen to someone because you lose your appetite.
H1N1 is not fun and you want to avoid contracting it; one way to prevent H1N1 is to get a flu shot. Flu shots cost $30 at county clinics without an appointment, and are free for people with Medicare. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the closest clinic is at 1080 Emeline Ave., Santa Cruz and the hours are from 1:30-4:40 p.m. Local drug stores such as CVS also offer flu shots, sometimes for free. If you don’t believe in flu shots or you don’t want to pay $30 to have a needle shoved in your arm, make sure to wash your hands well, avoid touching your nose, eyes, and mouth, and most importantly if you do feel sick do not go to school or any other public place because if you infect other people everyone will hate you.
All that was known about the three men who died from H1N1, was that two of them had underlying medical conditions. It would be nice to know who there were, because it is important to put a face on illness. However, it is enough to know that they were local men and that they were part of this community. H1N1 is not something that occurs in a distant place, it can affect peoples lives anywhere, including Santa Cruz County.
Currently it has only been several months into the flu season and 147 people have already died compared to the 106 deaths reported through the entire 2012-2013 flu season as relayed by Bay Area News Group. H1N1 is widespread throughout communities in California, and has made an impact. The flu is becoming a serious pathogen and it is important to be vigilant, and take all the precautionary steps to stay well. Germaphobes (any person obsessed with defeating bacteria) and non-germaphobes unite against H1N1 and other flu, because one thing we can all agree on is that nobody likes to get sick.
– Katrina Luque