By Jenny Neyman
Swine flu, bird flu or regular old seasonal flu — if you have it, you’re miserable, no matter what it’s called.
In many ways, the Novel H1N1 virus, or swine flu, isn’t much different from seasonal flu. Symptoms are similar, the virus spreads in similar ways and recommended prevention methods are similar.
But there are a few big differences. Since H1N1 is a new variant of influenza, few people have any immunity to it, which makes it more likely the viral infection will be widespread. That, in turn, has made attention to swine flu go viral.
The virus has hit the central Kenai Peninsula, but so far, attention to H1N1 has been more widespread than the virus itself.
“Novel H1N1 is everywhere in our state. It’s not recommended to test for it because it’s so widespread already. The assumption is, if you have flulike symptoms, it’s assumed it’s H1N1,” said Doreen Leavitt, nurse manager for the Kenai Public Health Center.
Leavitt said she doesn’t have an estimate of how many cases of H1N1 have hit the peninsula, since the flu isn’t being tested for and specifically diagnosed. But it is here, though apparently not in numbers greater than the regular, seasonal flu of years past.
“It’s affecting different regions at different times,” Leavitt said. “It’s moving, basically. Fairbanks was hit hard a few weeks ago, we had it kind of trickling in throughout the summer. What we’ve been told is to plan for the worst and hope for the best. We don’t want to ignore the situation or think we’re not going to have it down here or we’re safe from it, because we just don’t know. But I don’t think we are as hard hit as some other areas across the state and across the country.” Continue reading