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Swine Flu - What You Need at Home Now

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Today, I braced myself as I turned on the computer to head to the CDC website for the latest updates. As a mother, I didn't want to read about another mother's tragedy and heartache. As most of us, working in the trenches, had feared, the worst had happened. A 23-month-old toddler from Mexico died in Texas from the Swine Flu.

As a nurse, and as a mother, you hope this will never happen, that somehow, everyone will recover, and that if it's just detected soon enough, the deadly consequences can be avoided. Sadly the most vulnerable among us are often the most likely to have severe consequences from a serious infection like Swine flu.

I was just thinking about this yesterday, while checking on one of my patients, who's in a nursing home. The elderly and the young are usually the people who are more likely to have severe illness from the flu, develop a pneumonia and perhaps die.

Last year, over 36,000 people died from complications from the flu -- that's over 100 people each day -- the majority of whom were the very weakest people, whose immune systems were compromised. Among the 36,000 were 86 children under five.

Currently, according to the CDC, 91 people in the US have confirmed cases of Swine Flu, H1N1, which a type of Influenza A flu virus. There are currently five people hospitalized, among them a 19-month-old in New York.

We are all worried about the threat to our families and ourselves, and when that happens, people may panic and take actions that don't make sense.

Here are 8 things you can do today to keep yourself and your family safe:

1. Wash your hands frequently.

2. If you have any symptoms of the flu, such as fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, body aches, vomiting or diarrhea, be in touch with your health care provider for testing and treatment.

3. If you're sick, STAY HOME. Don't go to school or work or get on a plane.

4. If you're sick, keep the family home too. This particular virus is considered contagious one day before symptoms show up and up to seven days after people feel better.

5. If you notice that someone is sick, stay away from them, wash your hands if you come into contact with them and encourage them to get tested and treated quickly.

6. Develop a family emergency plan as a precaution. This should include storing a supply of food, medicines, face masks, alcohol-based hand rubs and other essential supplies.

7. Open up your medicine cabinet and make sure you have what you need for the family:
  • Tylenol (acetominophen)
  • Advil, Aleve, Motrin or other Non-Steroidal, Non Aspirin Anti-Inflammatory medication
  • Cough Medicine
  • Tissues
  • Alcohol based hand cleaners
  • Throat lozenges
(Important note: Do not give children under the age of five Aspirin or products containing aspirin as this can lead to Reye's Syndrome.)

8. Open up your pantry and freezer. Do you have enough food for at least a week? If you grew up like I did, with an Italian mother, then you're set for at least a month. If not, it's time for a trip to the supermarket, in case you need to be at home for a while.

Barbara Dehn was just on ABC's View from the Bay in San Francisco talking about Swine Flu.

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