Hand hygiene and shots can help athletes win against swine flu

This season, the star players on many football teams may not be on the offense, defense or specialty teams. Instead, it may be up to the medical team to execute a successful game plan.

The H1N1 influenza virus has proven to be a formidable opponent for even the toughest teams. Over recent weeks, legions of players throughout the southeast have been relegated to isolation, causing some games to be canceled. H1N1 is now heading north.

Viruses are not susceptible to antibiotics and the best way to limit spread is by immunization. Unfortunately, that requires forewarning and preparation. H1N1 is particularly virulent and a large scale immunization program has yet to be initiated.

Symptoms include high fever, chills, fatigue, nausea and coughing. College athletes are more vulnerable because dormitories and other close living quarters are breeding grounds for any virus. Universities have instituted strict isolation policies but the virus can be spread for approximately 24 hours before and after the onset of fever.

This attack has actually changed how sports-related injuries are treated.

“The H1N1 outbreak has caused us to refrain from using any medications that might even remotely suppress the immune system when treating injuries,” said Dr. Jeffrey Anderson, medical director for the University of Connecticut Department of Athletics.

He hopes the H1N1 vaccine will be available for winter sport athletes.

The best way to limit the spread of any virus is by practicing good hygiene:
• Wash hands with soap and water or alcohol-based antimicrobial hand cleaner, especially after sneezing or coughing.
• Avoid unnecessary human contact.
• Do not share utensils.

Instituting some basic precautions may prepare athletes to limit the spread of this virus and chalk up some extra victories.

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