Hold the H1N1: doctors urge caution this Holiday Season

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Public health officials in Region 8 said Wednesday they expect an increase in the number of H1N1 cases during the next few weeks. Dr. Shane Speights, Assistant Professor of Medicine at UAMS, told Region 8 News that close contact during the holiday season leads to higher cases of sickness.

"Here in Region 8, we've seen a lot of the influenza. I know a lot of the physician offices have and a lot of the ER's have as well, but there are still areas that have not seen a lot of it," said Speights.

Speights said more people get sick during the holidays because of travel. Sometimes people who are sick travel to a place where there is no sickness, but then it spreads from one person to another.

"It could easily domino just like that and that's why it's important to remember proper hand washing. Make sure that you cover your mouth when you're sneezing or coughing. Good sanitation precautions during the holiday seasons are vital," said Speights.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to keep your family healthy is to avoid contact if possible.

"To remember that the influenza virus is a respiratory virus and any cough or sneeze, that virus is going to be in the air for several minutes and anybody walking through there or touching any of the door handles or tables that the infected individual would have, is easily going to be exposed," said Speights.

Speights said those individuals at highest risk are elderly and pregnant women. Young children are also susceptible.

"Really that's one of the biggest caveats, hand washing and covering your mouth. If you are ill, don't be around other individuals, especially the high risk populations like pregnant women and young children," said Speights. "As it gets cooler, people tend to stay indoors. As the temperatures drop, people don't seem to go outside as much, obviously. Therefore, you're in closer proximity to those individuals who are infected."

Speights said the H1N1 virus isn't the only illness people need to pay attention to.

"Even the common cold, we don't talk a lot about that, but we do see an uptick in those," said Speights. "Just the common colds, the runny nose, cough congestion that people can get, can easily be passed on; most of those are respiratory viruses."

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