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Prevent spreading H1N1 through athletics

October 1, 2009 10:00 PM
Information from National Center for Sports Safety

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza virus that regularly causes outbreaks of influenza in pigs. Like all influenza viruses, swine flu viruses change constantly. Because of this mutation or changing of the virus, humans are able to contract this strain of the virus.  In the past, CDC received reports of approximately one human swine influenza virus infection every one to two years in the U.S., but from December 2005 through February 2009, 12 cases of human infection with swine influenza have been reported. Since April, it has become a worldwide pandemic.     
It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold and usually comes on suddenly. The symptoms below are usually referred to as "flu-like symptoms."
·         Fever (usually high)
·         Headache
·         Extreme tiredness
·         Dry cough
·         Sore throat
·         Runny or stuffy nose
·         Muscle aches
·         Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults
As people come into contact with human flu year after year, we build antibodies to the ever changing flu viruses. These antibodies help our bodies fight an infection.  The swine flu is more contagious because we have not built up any antibodies to this animal strain and our main defense to continue with the simple things that keep our immune systems strong.  The symptoms are usually mild but become serious in people who have other medical problems.

Swine flu is transmitted the same way as seasonal flu, which is mainly person-to-person transmission through coughing or sneezing of people infected with the influenza virus. People may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. People cannot contract swine flu by eating pork.

New studies show that many people with swine flu may be able to spread the virus for a week or more after symptoms first appear. That's longer than some experts had thought. The new research suggests they may need to be careful for longer, and that coughing is a more accurate sign of how long they can spread the virus.

Athletes are at risk for several reasons. The nature of athletic participation is to push the body to the limit, which causes dehydration and a compromised immune system.  Recovery should consist of ample rest, rehydration and refueling with a balanced, nutritious diet to boost the immune system. Easy as this may seem, most athletes do not follow these simple rules to restore their bodies and prevent or reduce disease.  Athletes also share dressing rooms, personal equipment, weight rooms and weight equipment as well as footballs, basketballs, volleyballs or soccer balls.

A simple rule that athletes can follow to reduce the incidence of disease is hand-washing."Hand-washing is still the best way to prevent colds and other respiratory and infectious diseases that are transmitted by hand to mouth or hand to nose/eye contact," says Samuel N. Grief, MD, medical director of campus care at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "Soap acts as a vehicle to trap the germs (i.e. viruses, bacteria) that are loosened by the act of rubbing your hands together under water. These germs can then be rinsed away by the water."

10 Times to Wash Hands
To prevent colds from spreading to others, practice regular hand-washing. Most importantly, wash hands:
1.    Before and after preparing or handling food, especially when handling uncooked poultry and meat
2.    Before eating
3.    After changing diapers
4.    After using the bathroom
5.    After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose
6.    Before and after inserting contact lenses
7.    After touching an animal or animal waste
8.    After handling garbage
9.    Before and after treating wounds
10.Before and after touching a sick or injured person

5 Steps to Proper Hand-Washing
If using soap and water for hand-washing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following five steps to prevent the spread of colds:
1.    Wet your hands with clean water - warm, if available - and apply soap.
2.    Lather by rubbing hands together; be sure to cover all surfaces.
3.    Continue rubbing hands together for 15 to 20 seconds (about the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday).
4.    Thoroughly rinse hands under running water to ensure removal of residual germs.
5.    Use paper towels or an air dryer to dry hands and then, if possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers make a good substitute for hand-washing when soap and water is not available. A recent study from the University of Chicago showed that while soap-and-water hand-washing was most effective in removing influenza virus from the hands, using alcohol-based hand sanitizer was a close second. If you're using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, apply product to one palm, rub your two hands together, making sure to reach all surfaces, and continue rubbing until hands are dry. 


The National Center for Sports Safety was founded to promote the importance of injury prevention and safety on all levels of youth sports through education and research. The NCSS focuses on decreasing the number and/or severity of injuries through developing and teaching sports safety courses, and collecting, analyzing, and researching injury data.



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