Prevention Key to stopping spread of flu
September 18, 2009
When it comes to the Novel H1N1 virus, Benjamin Franklin said it best.
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
Since a vaccine will not be available until some time next month, exercising good hygiene and other preventive measures are the best courses of action, according to Col. Ed Boland, Dwight David Eisenhower Army Medical Center's chief of preventive medicine, at the Sept. 10 town hall meeting discussing the virus.
"Doctors don't get sick, but they are exposed to a lot of illnesses. We wash our hands all the time," said Boland. "It's the single most effective thing we can do."
Washing hands with soap and warm water for 15 to 30 seconds at least five times a day, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizing gel, coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your sleeve and not touching your eyes or face are a few of the simple preventive steps people can take to fight the Novel H1N1 and the three other seasonal flu strains this year.
Boland said the Novel H1N1, which is also referred to as the swine flu, is at pandemic stages as it has gone beyond a local community and is global. The number of cases jumped from 10,000 in 41 countries in May to 98,000 in 137 countries in July.
Typically, pandemics occur every 30 to 40 years. The last flu pandemic was the Hong Kong flu in 1968 and 1969.
There have been 35 documented cases of H1N1 flu at Fort Gordon. Testing for the disease has since ceased for several reasons.
Of those 35, only 11 were confirmed among the trainee population. The 15th Regimental Signal Brigade has about 5,500 Soldiers. Col. Mark Horoho outlined the brigade's plan to control the spread of the virus after Boland's speech.
The brigade has a sick barracks to quarantine ill Soldiers. In addition, more hand washing stations with soap have been set up, and there has been an added emphasis on good personal hygiene habits such as not sharing razors or towels.
Also, brigade officials have had heating and air conditioning units inspected to make sure the "air is not stagnating," he said.
Beds have been staggered to give Soldiers more distance between each other. A sneeze has about a six foot radius, said Boland.
Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Foley, Fort Gordon's commanding general, commended Horoho and his staff for their vigilance.
Boland said populations of people under the age of 24 years-old are the hardest hit with the highest numbers of hospitalizations occurring in those between the ages of 5 and 24. Trainees often fall under that top age cut-off.
Novel H1N1's symptoms include sneezing, coughing, sore throat, body and head aches, chills, fatigue and fever. Sometimes, diarrhea and vomiting accompany the symptoms, which is not typical of other flu-like illnesses, he said.
The disease is already at work in a person's system up to 24 hours before the person begins experiencing symptoms.
Also, people who have had the flu often end up with a secondary pneumonia several days after recovering from Novel H1N1.
Novel H1N1 is different from the seasonal flu in that it tends to settle in lower in the throat causing the sore throat and coughing.
The current recommendation is for two Novel H1N1 shots to be received at least 21 days apart. Recent news reports indicate that tests are showing one shot may be enough, but as of the town hall meeting, it had not been confirmed.
Seasonal flu shots are expected to be given on Sept. 23 to active duty military.
To find updated information on Novel H1N1 or the seasonal flu, visit www.cdc.gov