CDC and CHPW debunks misconceptions surrounding the swine flu
By Ryan Pangilinan
Northwest Asian Weekly
Whether it’s severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or avian influenza, every now and then, there’s an ailment that is hyperbolized. Oftentimes, misinformation creates further confusion. In the last year, the H1N1 influenza strain has been at the center of media attention. Public media commonly refers to it as swine flu.
In June, the World Health Organization stated that this strain caused the 2009 flu pandemic.
However, in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) communities, misinformation along with cultural and generational gaps has created a host of half truths about H1N1. As a result, there has been an outpour of flu safety tips seen on bus advertisements and workplaces throughout the Northwest.
Within API communities, there are two major misconceptions regarding H1N1.
Misconception 1: A single vaccine will work for both the seasonal flu and H1N1.
Misconception 2: There is serious health risks associated with the vaccine.
In fact, there are two different vaccines designed for the season flu and H1N1. Additionally, it has been reported that the side effects of the H1N1 vaccine are minimal.
Language is a large barrier in getting proper information to ethnic groups. Many non-English speaking Asian immigrants are not receiving the same amount of information that they would be receiving in their home country. At the same time, many immigrants will often trust herbalists and home remedies over taking the advice of a doctor, according to a report from New American Media.
The inefficiency in communicating proper information between the state and APIs is not lost on the Washington State Department of Health, which offers information on its website in several different languages including Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Burmese, and Nepalese.
H1N1 has contributed to most of the influenza cases in 2009. According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), it is estimated that there have been between 2 million and 5 million people infected since its outbreak in April. Of those figures, only 2,000 people have died.
There is a fear among undocumented immigrants, which is a group the CDC is trying to reach out to. CDC spokesperson Arleen Porcell-Pharr has stated that people will not be asked to show picture ID when getting vaccinated.
Here is some additional information from Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW) about H1N1 that may help APIs who are trying to avoid it or who have caught it:
— Having a vegetarian diet does not increase a person’s likelihood of getting H1N1. Like most strains of flu, H1N1 is transferred through contact with contaminated surfaces or people.
— A person will not get the flu from the vaccine. The vaccine can cause a flu-like reaction, but it is not the same as having influenza.
— The best ways to avoid spreading the flu is to wash one’s hands often, cover one’s mouth while coughing or sneezing, and staying home from work or school if sick.
— Currently, H1N1 vaccinations are only available for the most at-risk people. This includes infants and children under the age of 2, pregnant women, and people ages 25 to 64 with preexisting health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, or compromised immune systems.
— Doctors are recommending that people who are in the high risk categories should get vaccinated once the shot is available for them, even if they’ve already had H1N1.
— Like many strains of the flu, H1N1 will run its course and — with rest and a steady intake of fluids — eventually go away.
The CDC and CHPW and is continuing to work with Americans through its informational website, which explains the basics of staying healthy and addressing specific concerns in regards to H1N1.
Community Health Plan is different from other health plans because it was created by the community and migrant health centers it partners with, health care providers with community roots that stretch back more than 30 years. ♦
Ryan Pangilinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.