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Topics > Healthy Outlook > How To Avoid The Flu This Season

How To Avoid The Flu This Season

Published by Contra Costa Times

Posted on Wed., September 9, 2009
By Erika Jenssen, MPH

WE ARE QUICKLY approaching what will be an uncertain and unusual flu season because there are likely to be two types of flu: the regular (or seasonal) flu, and the H1N1 (swine) flu, a new virus that has caused so much concern since last April.

As of Aug. 28, Contra Costa County has seen 138 hospitalizations and six deaths from the H1N1 flu. Nationally, about 8,000 people have been hospitalized and 522 people have died.

Because the H1N1 virus is new and there is little immunity, the H1N1 flu will likely cause increased illness this fall. This will be in addition to the seasonal flu, which annually kills about 36,000 people in the United States.

Many Contra Costa County residents are concerned and have questions about the coming flu season and vaccines. While much is still unknown, here are answers to some of the most common questions.

Will the seasonal flu vaccine protect me from H1N1 flu?

No. You will need two different vaccines to protect yourself from both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu. Neither vaccine is a substitute for the other.

The seasonal flu vaccine will be available first, before H1N1 flu vaccine, and we encourage everyone to get the seasonal flu vaccine.

When will the H1N1 flu vaccine become available?

This is uncertain. The date of arrival may change depending upon production. Vaccine will be available from health care providers in our county as they receive shipments.

We expect to have enough vaccine for everyone in our county. Seasonal flu vaccines usually become available in early fall.

Who should get the H1N1 flu vaccine?

Everyone. We all should get the H1N1 flu vaccine to protect the community and ourselves by stopping the spread of the H1N1 flu.

Certain groups of people are more vulnerable to severe disease and should be extra sure to get the H1N1 vaccine as soon as it is available:

  • Pregnant women
  • Infants 6 months and older, children and young adults through age 24
  • People ages 25-64 who have chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

There are also certain groups who should get vaccinated to help prevent passing the flu to others including:

  • Health care workers
  • Those who care for infants under 6 months.

What should I do if I think I'm sick with the H1N1 flu before I get the vaccine?

Contact your doctor, who will determine whether you should be examined and possibly treated with antiviral medicine. Only go to the emergency room if you have a medical emergency.

Will people be required to receive H1N1 flu vaccine?

No. But vaccines offer the best protection against flu for you and your loved ones.

Prior to release, vaccines are tested for safety and effectiveness in clinical trials. All licensed vaccines are held to very high standards of quality and safety.

Meanwhile, continue to practice good hygiene: wash your hands often or use a waterless hand sanitizer, cover your coughs and sneezes with the inside of your arm, and stay home from school or work if you are sick.

For H1N1 flu and vaccine updates, visit or call the Contra Costa Public Health flu hotline at 925-313-6469.

Jenssen is the immunization coordinator for Contra Costa Health Services.

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