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MDG warns of continued H1N1 threat

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- With H1N1 continuing to affect people across the United States and world, and the vaccine for the virus still in development, the 30th Medical Group is warning Airmen to remain vigilant.

The number of American's affected by the virus is now more than 7,500, with 3,849 of those people in the Department of Defense; the virus is showing no signs of slowing.

"Due to the fact that this is a new strain of virus, it is hypothesized that the strain will come in waves every six to 12 weeks, potentially becoming more virulent," said Maj. Carl Erickson, the 30th Medical Group's Public Health officer in charge. "Thus far, this has not been the case; although, I feel it is too early to dismiss this strain as only being 'mild.'"

What is a concern, Major Erickson said, is that there is no immunity against the H1N1 strain of influenza. Symptoms will develop suddenly, including coughing, sore throat, ear ache, head congestion, and a temperature of more than 100.5 degrees. Some patients have even reported nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. While symptoms usually remain mild, young children, elderly adults and people with underlying chronic health problems are at risk for complications.

Members of Team Vandenberg who suffer these symptoms should try to treat themselves at home first, at least for two days, said Lt. Col. David Rosso, the 30th MDG chief of medical staff. Patients are encouraged to initially take over-the-counter pain medication, such as Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or Tylenol, and decongestants.

"Be sure to take as directed on the label of bottles," said Colonel Rosso. "Do not treat children with aspirin, due to the risk of serious complications."

If symptoms persist, people should call the base clinic or their health care provider to make an appointment for further evaluation. While at the clinic, patients are encouraged to use the "cough etiquette stations," which are kiosks with face masks, tissues and hand sanitizer. The 30th MDG will post these stations at entrances for people with influenza-like-symptoms to use upon entering the clinic. The virus is spread through droplets, either aerosolized by coughing and sneezing, or transferred through contact with inanimate objects, such as countertops and door knobs.

"Realize that good hygiene and public health are good for the entire community," Major Erickson said. "Healthy people are more productive and less time is lost at work, resulting in more time focused on mission accomplishment."

The 30th MDG released these tips for stopping the spread of H1N1: 

1. Get the flu shot
2. Wash hands as needed with warm, soapy water for at least 15 seconds
3. Cover a cough or sneeze with the upper sleeve, rather than with hands
4. If sick, avoid crowds and remain home from work until at least five days have elapsed from onset of symptoms and the fever has been absent for at least 24 hours.

For more information on H1N1, visit the Web site for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/flu or the California Department of Health Web site at http://ww2.cdph.ca.gov/HealthInfo/discond/Pages/Influenza(Flu).aspx.