In case your runny nose hadn’t alerted you yet, it’s flu season and the H1N1 flu virus is back — in fact, it’s arrived in Argentina eight weeks earlier than last year.
H1N1, also known as swine flu, is a respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus (the full name is the “Influenza A (H1N1) virus” but yes, that’s a mouthful), the symptoms of which include fever, coughing, nasal secretions, fatigue and headache. In 2009, it was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) and had caused 17,000 deaths by the start of 2010.
But don’t worry: medical authorities have reassured the public that this year’s H1N1 outbreak will in no way rival 2009’s pandemic.
“The flu virus circulates in Argentina every year, but this doesn’t mean we’ll be seeing a situation like what we saw in 2009 when there was the pandemic and, unlike today, we didn’t have a vaccine,” said Carla Vizzoti, the director of the National Program for the Control of Preventable Diseases said.
So what’s your best bet against contracting H1N1? According to medics, the anti-flu vaccine. At-risk individuals — which include babies between 6 and 24 months, pregnant women, people over 65 years old and people with chronic diseases and obesity — are especially urged to get vaccinated as they are more susceptible to falling ill.
All respiratory viruses are characterized by their contagious nature, and their transmission is through the air, through microdroplets that are expelled while coughing or sneezing, and by touching contaminated areas. So wash your hands with water and soap; avoid excessively touching your face, mouth, and eyes; and wash areas commonly touched like phones and doorknobs.
So far, there have been 437 recorded cases of the flu, which represents 18 percent of last year’s total 2,376 cases. The Health Ministry has distributed 7.4 million anti flu vaccines throughout the country and is encouraging people to get vaccinated.
Vaccines are offered for free in most hospitals or can be obtained at a AR $230 charge in pharmacies.