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Swine Flu and Chronic Conditions

If you have a chronic condition like heart disease, diabetes, or even obesity, you need to take extra care to protect yourself from all types of the flu, but especially the strain pH1N1. Most people call it swine flu. It sickened many people around the world in 2009. It’s the type of flu circulating most the winter of 2013-2014.   

If you’ve had a flu shot this year, you’ve already taken an important step. The pH1N1 virus is in the 2013-2014 vaccine.

Why You Need the Extra Protection

When you have a chronic health condition and get any kind of flu, you’ll probably get sicker than someone who doesn’t have the problem.

You’re more likely to get complications from the flu -- like bronchitis or pneumonia -- that can land you in the hospital.

Not only that, but having the flu can make your other health problems worse. If you have asthma, for instance, your attacks may be more severe when you have the flu.

You are at high risk for severe swine flu if you have:

  • Asthma or chronic lung disease
  • Blood disorder
  • Brain or central nervous system condition
  • Diabetes or kidney disorders
  • Heart disease
  • Liver disorder
  • Obesity
  • Weakened immune system

Get the Vaccine

The 2013-14 seasonal flu vaccine prevents pH1N1 flu. If you've had a flu shot this year, you have the best protection from swine flu.

And make sure to get the shot. The nasal spray vaccine doesn’t work as well for people with chronic conditions.

Ask your doctor if you should also get a pneumonia vaccine.

Insist Your Close Family Members Get the Vaccine

Your family and caregivers -- anyone who is around you on most days -- can help prevent you from getting the flu by getting the vaccine themselves.

Protect Yourself Each Day

Use the same steps to prevent all types of flu:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. That includes before, during, and after preparing food; before eating; before and after touching someone who’s sick; before and after treating a wound; after using the bathroom, changing diapers, or helping a child in the bathroom; and especially after you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze. Use hand sanitizer when you can't wash your hands.
  • Don't touch your face unless you have washed your hands. Touching your mouth, nose, or eyes can spread the virus to your lungs and throat.
  • Avoid crowded places and people who are sneezing or coughing whenever possible.
  • Stay as healthy as you can: Eat healthy foods, drink a lot of liquids, and get plenty of sleep and exercise.

 

Call Your Doctor if You Have Symptoms

Call your doctor right away if you have flu-like symptoms like these -- even if you’ve had the flu shot:

  • Body aches
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Vomiting

Remind the doctor’s office about your chronic condition. Your doctor can do a test to see if you have the flu.

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