FLU FACTS: H1N1 virus is a public health enemy
For the Nevada Appeal
Editor’s Note: This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages throughout the flu season. Readers interested in knowing more about this topic are urged to visit http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu or http://www.flu.gov.
Q: How do H1N1 viruses attack us?
A: A frequent route of transmission for the H1N1 flu virus is through one’s respiratory system. When flu viruses are present in the air you inhale, trouble can start because they may come in contact with the membranes of your respiratory tract.
H1N1 viruses are good at invading respiratory tract cells. As you can see from the picture, the H1N1 virus has a somewhat hairy appearance. The “hairs” contain proteins that have a way of binding the virus to your healthy respiratory cells. If the virus gets into the cells, the cells then become known as host cells. Once inside host cells, the virus replicates itself aggressively and releases new viruses that go on to attack your other cells, which are very conveniently, right there.
Within a couple of hours one single virus can enter a cell and reproduce thousands of offspring virus, which burst out of the host cell and go on to do the same thing all over.
When you have the flu, you can just imagine this scenario going on inside your body! Ugh.
The situation is grim. The H1N1 viruses are multiplying rapidly and host cells are dying. Your immune system kicks in so that your body can fight the foreign invaders. T-cells go to battle, and your body produces new antibodies whose job it is to neutralize all the newly created viruses before they infect more cells.
Fortunately the immune system almost always wins the battle, but only after days of fever, aches and coughing. One consolation about feeling lousy is that at least you know your body is fighting off the enemy.
This is where antivirals like oseltamivir (Tamiflu) can help. The function of antivirals is to slow the rate at which the H1N1 viruses reproduce. By doing so, they lighten the load on one’s immune system and usually lessen the severity and duration of one’s illness. Since most people’s immune systems are capable, antivirals are usually only used on very serious cases of the flu or when the victim’s immune system is somehow compromised by a chronic medical condition.
The message we leave you with today is the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Take Three” steps to fight the flu:
1) Take time to get a flu vaccination;
2) Take everyday preventive actions like covering sneezes and frequent hand washing; and
3) Take antiviral drugs if your doctor recommends them.
There is no charge for the H1N1 vaccinations at any of these Nevada clinics.
CARSON CITY AREA
H1N1 VACCINE CLINICS
WHERE: Carson City Health and Human, 900 East Long St.
WHEN: Every Thursday
HOURS: 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1-4:30 p.m. Closed for lunch.
WHERE: Carson Station, 900 S. Carson Street
WHEN: 9 a.m.-noon Thursday, Jan. 28,
WHERE: Slotworld Casino, 3879 Highway 50 East
WHEN: 11 a.m.-2p.m. Monday, Feb. 1.
Fernley H1N1 Vaccination Clinic
WHERE: Fernley Community Center, Main and Center streets
WHEN: 2-7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 2
H1N1 Vaccination Clinic at Topaz Lake
WHERE: Topaz Lodge and Casino
WHEN: 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Wednesday, Feb.3
Douglas County H1N1 Vaccination Clinic
WHERE: Fire Station 7, 940 Mitch Dr., Gardnerville Ranchos
WHEN: 9 a.m-1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6
Smith Valley H1N1 Vaccination Clinic
WHERE: Smith Valley Library, 22 Day Lane, Smith Valley
WHEN: 9 a.m.-1:30 p.m., Monday, Feb. 8
• Pam Graber is the public information officer for Carson City Health and Human Services.