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H1N What?

Pete Springer/OPB

Maybe this has happened to you recently: you (or your friend, colleague, or loved one) get a fever. It’s followed by a cough, sore throat, and the sniffles. You immediately think “oh no, do I have swine flu? If I do, what does that mean?”

Confusion around the H1N1 virus abounds. The CDC provides extensive information about what the virus is and what to do if you feel sick, but other than those facts, little is clear. Since the virus surfaced last April, it has killed over 600 people, (15 in Oregon, according to health officials) including 28 pregnant women. The Prospect School closed this week when many of their students and teachers became sick, even though no one knew if it was H1N1 or not.

Meanwhile public health authorities are working hard to get the word out about vaccines. Mel Kohn, Oregon’s public health director, announced this week that the vaccine will be available to pregnant women,* health care workers, first responders, and healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 who have medical conditions that put them at a high risk of flu as of Monday. The state will slowly get more vaccine throughout the months to come.

But then you just have to look north to become even more confused. Many Canadian provinces are heeding the advice of a recent study — currently under peer review — that found an association between getting the seasonal flu vaccine and contracting H1N1. Is that something we should be paying attention to here? Should we be worrying about H1N1? Or just accept that it is this year’s seasonal flu? Should workplaces make emergency plans? Should hospitals make surge plans? What about quarantine plans? If you get sick, what should you do?

This is a show full of questions we hope to answer, but we’d also love to gather your experience. Have you, or someone you know, become sick with the flu this year? What did you do? How concerned are you about H1N1? Will you get the vaccine? What about the regular flu vaccine? What are you most, or least, worried about when it comes to this year’s flu season?

*Editor’s note: Health Officials say the H1N1 vaccine that will be released next week will be a nasal spray, not appropriate for pregnant women or people whose immune systems are compromised.

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