H1N1 parties are 'not recommended'

Friday, May 15, 2009

Since there are no cases of the H1N1 flu here, the prospect of foolish behavior elsewhere being repeated in Marshall County seems remote, according to information released at the Emergency Management Agency's office here.

However, even the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta have confirmed that somewhere else in America, some people have held "'swine flu parties' as a way to protect against [the] H1N1 flu in the future." The CDC "does not recommend" that.

Marshall County Emergency Management Agency Director Bob Hopkins explained on Tuesday morning, "Apparently some people are having swine flu parties so they could catch this milder form of flu and then have a mistaken belief that they would have built up a resistance" to what's anticipated next fall.

Meanwhile, national news reports say production of a vaccine against an annual flu and the more serious H1N1 flu has been approved as analysis of the threat continues.

Hopkins has now held a second press conference after meeting with nearly a dozen top leaders of the communities in Marshall County. It's to keep them aware of the threat and how to be ready. It may be that they've been advised this spring about what might more likely to be a problem last next fall. Still, it's like preparing for an invisible threat.

"The message is that we are on top of it and are doing what we should do," Hopkins said.

The "at risk population" includes those who are pregnant, under age 5, over 65 and people with multiple health issues who then catch the flu, the county EMA director said.

"Plus, the H1N1 virus can't be caught by eating pork," he said. "There's no way to catch it from animals.

"And because of the fear of H1N1, the price of pork is down," Hopkins said of the section of agri-business that's been adversely affected by unwarranted fear.

But to emphasize the gravity of the situation, Hopkins advocates frequent hand washing and the common courtesy of personal hygiene when one must cough or sneeze.

"While the disease seen in the current ... H1N1 flu outbreak has been mild for many people," the CDC said to warn against swine flu parties, "it has been severe and even fatal for others.

"There is no way to predict with certainty what the outcome will be for an individual or, equally important, for others to whom the intentionally infected person may spread the virus," the CDC said.