Mitigating H1N1 for CFBOs

Or, What to do About the Flu

This week, HHS released a new guide for Community and Faith-Based Organizations that gives the latest information for dealing with the novel H1N1 strain of influenza.  I listened in on a conference call with the HHS Secretary on Thursday, and the week before, my Chapter of NACBA heard a presentation by the lead Policy Coordinator for Influenza at the CDC in Atlanta.  Here is the gist of what I got out of these meetings:

  1. Get vaccinated, especially if you are in a high-risk group (see below)
  2. Take everyday preventive actions:
      Cover your cough or sneeze
      Wash your hands
      Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
      Stay home if you’re sick
  3. See your doctor, and get anti-viral prescription meds to help minimize your symptoms

The H1N1 virus is “novel” to humans; there is no established immunity.  This means that people will easily become sick and the illness will be easily spread from person to person.  If someone coughs or sneezes in the open, the virus can land where others will be exposed, and the virus can live without a host for several hours.  Also, an infected person can be contagious with the virus for as much as 24 hours before they have symptoms of illness.  In recent years anywhere from 5% to 20% of the population in the US becomes ill with seasonal flu and approximately 36,000 die from flu-related illness.  Because there is no immunity to the H1N1 virus, this flu season is likely to be very different from recent history.

On the other hand, because of the seriousness of this situation, there will be heightened awareness and the public may be more compliant with principles of disease mitigation.  We in the Faith-based community have an opportunity to have a major impact on the outcome of this flu season.  We have kind of a captive audience…and it is a major portion of the US population.  We also have a generally well-trusted pulpit, and can have an impact on the community around us by hosting meetings to deliver the message.

Visit the CFBO page at to get more links to resources.

The High-Risk Groups

(this is quoted, pretty much verbatim, from the cfbo guidance page at

The seasonal flu vaccine is recommended for anyone who wants to reduce their risk of becoming ill with flu. It is particularly important for persons at increased risk of severe illness or for spreading the infection to persons who are at high risk. These people include:

  • People aged 6 months through 18 years or age 50 years or older;
  • People with underlying medical conditions, such as chronic heart or lung diseases or diabetes;
  • Pregnant women;
  • Healthcare providers;
  • People who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months of age; and
  • Residents of long-term care facilities.

If you are unsure about whether you should receive the seasonal flu vaccine, contact your healthcare provider.

When the vaccine first becomes available, the groups of people who will be in greatest need for protection against the  H1N1 flu virus are:

  • Pregnant women;
  • Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months old;
  • Healthcare and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel;
  • All people aged 6 months to 24 years; and
  • People aged 25 through 64 years with chronic health conditions

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