Scientists still monitoring pandemic dangers of H1N1

By Kristen Holland Shear

The H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, is not as prevalent as it was a few months ago, but the pandemic danger remains.

Physicians at UT Southwestern report some resurgence of the strain and say individuals continue to be hospitalized for treatment, some with severe cases.

Dr. James Luby, professor of internal medicine and medical director for infection control at UT Southwestern University Hospitals & Clinics, said there are indications of some ongoing low-grade viral activity in North Texas.

“The cases I’m familiar with reflect transmission of H1N1 in our community that may be below the level that can be detected by our surveillance systems, emergency room visits and influenza antigen tests,” he said. “I do not think, however, that they are a harbinger for a third wave of H1N1 locally.”

Experts say the vaccine remains the best way to prevent further cases. Dr. Luby said none of the patients he knows about had received either the seasonal or H1N1 pandemic influenza vaccines.

Guidelines to help avoid getting or spreading the flu and/or potential swine flu include:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Immediately dispose of the tissue.
  • Practice excellent hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • If you are diagnosed with or believe you have influenza, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine).