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Fighting new flu strain everyone's responsibility

It seems like no matter where you go these days, people are coughing and sneezing with total disregard for those around them, whether it's a mall, restaurant, church, it almost makes you want to stay home and avoid any outside contact at all.

None of us would probably be as sensitive about the issue, if the threat of the H1N1 virus wasn't playing so heavily into the picture and a constant topic everywhere. Last night alone H1N1 garnered the top three news spots both nationally and locally on the television stations I watched.

This new strain, commonly known as 'swine flu' gets credit for kicking off the flu season earlier than normal this year, emerging in April, seeming to hit children and young adults especially hard.

The public service announcements have been good about emphasizing the need for taking a few simple precautions that will play a key role in stopping the spread. Among them are common sense tips that we should already be adhering to on a regular basis, flu season or not, like covering your cough with a tissue or your sleeve; washing your hands with soap and water; not sharing a drinking glass or eating utensil with others; changing hand towels frequently in your bathroom; avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth; staying away from people who are sick; or if you have flu-like symptoms yourself, staying home from school or work.

However, the best way to avoid contacting the flu is by getting vaccinated against both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus. This will require at least one dose of the seasonal vaccine and two doses of the H1N1 virus as they become available.

In an effort to help curb potential outbreaks by guaranteeing as many students as possible are immunized, a series of 'shot clinics' have been established, starting today and continuing throughout the month, at a variety of metro wide schools including several locations throughout the West Fargo School District. These clinics are open to everyone, not just the students attending.

The clinics are the result of a collaborative effort of leaders from the Fargo Cass Public Health and the Clay County Health Department teaming up to help fight the spread of both seasonal and H1N1 flu strains, by sharing resources of local health providers, universities, and schools, to ensure the F-M community is prepared to distribute vaccine when the time arrives.

We can all play a small part in preventing this potentially dangerous bug from invading our lives by simply being a little more considerate and 'hygienically correct' when we are out in public. The next time you cough or sneeze, think about the ramifications and grab that tissue or shirt sleeve. It may seem like a small thing, but it'll go a long way in making the difference between being healthy or becoming dangerously ill.

For details about dates and times regarding the flu clinics and other information related to seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus visit