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Teen Voice

Swine Flu or How I Learned to Love the Vaccine

-- Devorah Treatman

Ask you average person in the streets or hallways if they are worried about Swine flu. Odds are, they’re not. H1N1 suffers from the unfortunate combination of overblown media hype, and the sense that it was last season’s disease. Unfortunately, people view diseases that don’t instantly kill or turn the victims into mutated purple shark people, as being harmless. This is most definitely not the case with swine flu.

The symptoms of H1N1 are very similar to the seasonal flu: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. The duration of the illness is commonly 4-9 days. This is reason enough to be concerned about H1N1, as being sick and in pain for a week is no fun. It is worse, however, if you must miss school. Making up missed work can set students behind, and it often takes weeks to fully catch up. Going to school sick just exacerbates the problem, as not only is it impossible to concentrate, but it also spreads the disease.

H1N1 is incredibly infectious. It is currently estimated to have infected 20% of Americans, or 47 million people at its height. I remember, back in November, nearly a quarter of my school was sick. If one individual catches H1N1, the rest of the family is highly likely to be infected too.

Another reason swine flu is so dangerous is because of who its victims are. It attacks mostly young, healthy people, which makes it more risky for teenagers. Last year, 70% of H1N1 victims were between the ages of five and twenty-four.

So, the question becomes, what will happen to H1N1 in the new decade? The biggest risk is that it mutates to a deadlier form. The precedent for this would be the catastrophic 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, which killed more people than World War I. I am doubtful that this will occur, but according to the media, this is what the doctors and researchers are afraid of. The rosiest predictions claim that the large number of people who have had swine flu might provide for a kind of “herd immunity”. This is based on the idea that our bodies now recognize H1N1 and are better prepared to combat it. This, too, I doubt although it is more plausible.

The best way to prevent catching swine flu is to get the vaccine. Everyone from six months to twenty-four years old is of high priority to receive H1N1 flu shots (according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). The shots are usually free, although some clinics may charge a small fee. Shots will be administered at schools, hospitals, clinics, and drug stores. The vaccine is as safe as the seasonal flu shot. The fear of contracting Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes paralysis, is overblown; there is a higher chance of contracting the disease from the flu itself than from the vaccine.

Teens are too busy with school, friends and activities to spend a week in bed with Swine Flu. Invest in your health; get vaccinated.

Devorah Treatman is a is a freshman at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy, where she writes for the Cougar Chronicle. She is fascinated public policy, especially education and transportation. Major obsessions include painting, drawing, 19th century literature, classical music, cooking, diseases, and architecture. As the new editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Voice's Teen Voice she welcomes your comments, suggestions and contributions to the column. You can reach her at teen @ pjvoice.com.

To view previous editions of "Teen Voice", please click here.

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