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Dr. Manis Provides Educational Programs to Staff and Community on H1N1

Dr. ManisThe H1N1 vaccine is the “trump card” in managing swine flu this winter, Ronal Manis Jr., M.D., told health care providers at Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC). Dr. Manis this month is providing educational programs to staff and the community, discussing what to expect and how to protect oneself and others from the flu that has spread around the globe. He is the medical director of infection control at UVMC.

H1N1, or swine flu, differs from most people’s perception of the flu because it negatively affects younger people more so than older folks. For example, there have been no reports of H1N1 outbreaks in nursing homes, Dr. Manis said.

“It is a young people’s disease because antibody levels in younger people are nonexistent,” he said in explaining the history of the virus.

H1N1’s “granddaddy” can be traced to the 1918 killer flu, which also targeted younger people. Older people are more immune to this flu because they were exposed to a similar flu, the “son” of the 1918 flu through the 1950s, Dr. Manis said. Predictions are that 50 percent of the U.S. population will be infected with H1N1 compared to about 20 percent for the seasonal flu.

The average age of those dying from H1N1 is 30, compared to a much older average for the seasonal flu. Those 65 and older make up about 8 percent of the deaths from H1N1 compared to about 90 percent of deaths for seasonal flu.

Manis said the “hysteria” when people hear of a H1N1 case in the area is an overreaction because the virus “is everywhere” these days.

The 2009 swine flu has a predilection for youth/young adults; pregnant women, who are four times at risk to be hospitalized with complications as women who are not pregnant; and those with preexisting medical conditions. Most of the children who have died so far have had preexisting medical conditions.

With the peak of the flu season yet to come in January and February, steps are being taken to educate people about the flu, prepare for handling any influx of cases and encourage people to get the vaccine as it becomes available. As the season progresses, health officials will be watching to see if the H1N1 changes its strength and becomes more virulent.

“The vaccine is the trump card in managing this,” Dr. Manis said. “We have a long way to go in this (flu) season.”

Getting an H1N1 vaccine, when available, is important, particularly for health care workers, Dr. Manis said. While 50 percent of healthcare workers nationwide receive flu vaccines, he said the rate at UVMC is around 70 percent.

“The vaccine is important so you don’t spread it (swine flu) to children,” he said, adding it also helps protect others, including co-workers. 

Those with questions about the safety of the vaccine, particularly pregnant women, are urged to discuss any questions with their physician. 

“An ongoing relationship with a primary care doctor is especially important at times such as this,” said Barbara Evert, M.D., UVMC Vice President and Chief Medical Officer.  “Anyone who doesn’t already have a physician is urged to get one,” she stressed, adding that the CareFinders free physician referral service is available to help at 1-866-608-3463.