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A Cause for Awareness, Not Alarm

with Rachelle Soper, M.D.

M ention the H1N1 pandemic to someone and

you’re likely to get one of two responses: alarm or
What do I do if I get H1N1?
Basically, you should stay home and isolated
a complete lack of concern. But which response from others. The significant majority of people
is best? The answer is neither. with H1N1 will experience the same symptoms
The truth is that the H1N1 pandemic really that they would with the seasonal f lu. Many
does pose a significant risk, but that doesn’t won’t even realize they have H1N1.
mean we are all in danger. If you are pregnant and develop a fever along
A novel virus with a cough, sore throat or runny nose, call
H1N1 is considered a novel virus because its your OB/GYN. Do not go to her or his office
behavior is different than other strains of without calling ahead. If you do have H1N1 you
inf luenza. About 90 percent of deaths caused risk infecting all of the other pregnant women at
by the seasonal f lu are patients 65 years and the office.
older, but that group accounts for less than 10 If your child under 5 years develops f lu-like
percent of deaths resulting from H1N1. symptoms, call her or his pediatrician.
Forty-one percent are patients between the ages Finally, if you’re symptoms become potentially
of 25 and 49. life threatening – such us a fever higher than
But it’s important to remember that of the 103.3º F, shortness of breath or difficulty
nearly 44,000 confirmed cases of H1N1 in the breathing – either go to your local emergency
U.S. between April 15 and July 24, less than 1 room or call 911. Also, if your fever goes
percent died. That number gets even smaller if away without the help of medication but then
you account for the number of people who were returns a day or two later go to your local
infected but never tested. Based on the CDC’s emergency department.
estimates the actual mortality rate would be Can I go to the emergency
roughly 0.03 percent. department if I’m scared?
Pregnancy and H1N1 Yes. Your local emergency department is
The CDC and the World Health Organization dedicated to supporting its community.
both report an increased risk among pregnant Emergency departments use a triage method
women, which is why it is so important for them that identifies priority patients, and severe
to be vaccinated against the disease. Still, we illnesses and injuries are seen first. Everyone who
believe that most pregnant women infected with comes in, though, will be evaluated by a health
H1N1 won’t experience symptoms any worse care provider.
than they would with the seasonal f lu.
Should I get vaccinated? Yes! About the Author: Rachelle Soper M.D. is the
Vaccinations help prevent the spread of the assistant medical director of Sutter Delta’s
virus in two ways. First, they keep you from emergency department in Antioch. Dr. Soper
getting infected. Second, they prevent you from helped coordinate Sutter Delta’s response to the
spreading the virus to others. Since some people spread of H1N1 in East County in April 2009 and
aren’t able to be vaccinated themselves, getting continues to play an important role in managing
vaccinated is socially responsible. the hospital’s response to the virus.

October 2009 • 1