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Pioneer Editorial: Treating the H1N1 virus seriously

We like to feel secure, knowing that our high-technology society will solve any problem that comes along. Unfortunately we must also learn that we can never let up our guard, that some things can't be easily pushed aside.

That is the case with the H1N1 flu virus.

There has been plenty of discussions and high-level preparations for the misnamed "swine flu," but now the public must now realize the seriousness of this new flu and make their own preparations. The H1N1 flu virus is a killer, both nationally and globally. In Minnesota, the H1N1 virus is blamed as contributing to the death of three Minnesotans as of last month. It also has affected thousands of others.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration reiterated that the health and safety of the American people is the first priority of President Barack Obama, placing the H1N1 virus high on that list.

A formal national framework for preparedness calls for strengthened efforts in surveillance, mitigation, vaccine and communications. That includes establishing a partnership at all levels, including state and local health departments, and all governments to include tribal officials. Perhaps the most important part of that is a partnership with school districts.

Schools provide a battleground for fighting H1N1, as large numbers of people gather daily, young people who can be most susceptible to the virus --along with the elderly those with chronic diseases. Bemidji school officials this week learned about the district's efforts to prepare for the virus and about tips that parents should observe to keep their children healthy.

Simple things count the most, such as washing your hands as often as possible and not sharing items with others such as drink bottles or food utensils. Helpful too are the hand sanitizers which now are readily available. Also important are to watch for the symptoms of H1N1 flu and respond accordingly. The flu will take longer to recover from, and children should be kept out of school as long as seven days --something we're not used to as we don't want to be home sick and we want to return to a normal schedule as soon as possible.

A second key will be an H1N1 vaccine, which should become available in mid-October. Although voluntary, every American should consider taking the vaccine.

The H1N1 flu is a globally serious problem that must be treated as a serious threat. The federal government has given Minnesota $5.95 million in grants to help the state prepare for the 2009 H1N1 virus and the fall flu season. It will help pay for potential vaccination campaigns and to implement strategies to reduce people's exposure to the virus.

Now it's up to us to pay attention to those strategies and prepare our own plans should H1N1 continue to spread to all corners of the state, and world.