Health experts meet to battle flu season

September 22, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fall arrived on Tuesday and the flu season is here, but this year it is different. The H1N1 virus, or commonly referred to as the swine flu -- combined with the seasonal flu -- threatens to make this an especially dangerous winter. Experts met at Stanford Wednesday night to discuss the battle plan.

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The H1N1 virus isn't slowing down. Wednesday night, dozens packed a forum sponsored by the Stanford Blood Center to find out how to stop the virus from spreading.

"I wouldn't want to wish anybody to have this," said Laura Zobkiw, who is still recovering from the H1N1 flu. "I felt like my limbs were so heavy that I couldn't get up off the bed. I had a fever close to 103."

She's here to learn how to avoid getting this deadly flu strain again and how to protect her 4-year-old daughter as well. In mid October, the first shipments of H1N1 vaccines will go out to hospitals. Doctors recommend getting that and the seasonal flu vaccine that is currently available.

"Most of us believe that this coming flu season which starts now will be worse than the usual flu in terms of the number of cases, the numbers of people hospitalized, the number of people dying," said professor Arthur Reingold, M.D., from the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.

To give you an idea of how quickly H1N1 is spreading, in the Bay Area, more people were hospitalized this summer because of this virus than during an entire winter with the average seasonal flu.

In Santa Clara County, 134 people have been hospitalized because of H1N1.The average victim is only 17 years old. Santa Clara County public health officer Marty Fenstersheib, M.D. public health officer is bracing himself for a long and unstable school year.

"So far the numbers for absenteeism in just a handful of schools is up, but I expect that's going to increase over time," said Fenstersheib.

Time is also what's needed, for H1N1 to finally dissipate.

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