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CDC Experts Dispel Myths About the H1N1 Flu

New America Media, News Report, Video, Valeria Fernndez/video by Josu Rojas Posted: Nov 10, 2009

PHOENIX, Ariz.--If I get the shot, could I catch the H1N1 flu? Thats one of the most frequently asked questions Spanish-language media hear from communities in Phoenix.

The answer is no, you cant get the flu from the flu shot, said Dr. Corey J. Hebert, medical director of the Louisiana Recovery School District.

The vaccine that contains the dead virus can cause a flu- like reaction, but thats not the same as having influenza, he said.

More than a dozen journalists from Latino, Chinese, Filipino and Native-American media attended a briefing with experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), organized by New America Media in Phoenix on Nov. 5.

The experts dispelled some of the myths that seem to have spread faster than the virus among minority communities in Arizona. And the journalists described the challenges of getting accurate information to their audiences.

People dont want to get the vaccine, said Victor Hugo Rodriguez, a reporter for Univision. Theyre afraid theyll catch the flu,

Theres a kind of a disparity of knowledge. They hear bits and pieces. They really dont understand what this disease is. Its new. They dont know about the safety of the vaccine, said Alan Janssen, a CDC health communications. And thats were you play a role.

Another concern was the situation of low-skilled workers.

I hear time and time again from workers who get sick, If I dont show up to work, Ill lose my job,' said Lizeth Felix, of Prensa Hispana, a weekly Spanish newspaper. Bosses threatened them, 'If you dont come to work theres a line of people ready to replace you.'

There was also an underlying fear among undocumented immigrants, said Felix.

The group also happens to be one of the populations the CDC is trying to reach out to.

You should not be asked for an ID when you get the vaccine, said Arleen Porcell-Pharr, spokesperson for the CDC.

Language and geography seem to also be a barrier in getting the proper information for ethnic groups.

The Chinese-American community doesnt have much information about H1N1 as they have in their home country, so they tend to disregard it, said Tinna Xie, correspondent for Arizona Chinese News in Arizona.

Native Americans tend to leave in remote communities making it harder for the information to reach them, said Jeri Thomas, from the Gila Bend American Indian Community.

Native Americans are over-represented when it comes to hospitalizations and deaths due to the virus, according to Janey Pearl, a spokesperson for the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). While they account for 7 percent of documented cases, they represent 20 percent of those hospitalized and 20 percent of deaths.

Cultural competence is crucial for those doing outreach. Among Latino immigrants, yerberias stores that sell herbal and home remedies may be preferred to a visit to the doctor, said Rodriguez, the Univision reporter. The yerberia owners advice could weigh more than that of health officials, he added.

The H1N1 virus has caused most cases of influenza this year. The CDC estimates between 2 million and 5 million people have been infected since the outbreak in April, and 2,000 people have died, including 100 children, said Dr. Andrew Kroger of the CDCs National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

Unlike the seasonal flu, which mostly affects people between ages 25 and 60, infants and young children are considered a group at higher risk of hospitalization due to the H1N1 virus.

Thats why they are targets for the vaccination campaign, together with pregnant women and people with a chronic disease.

One message that should be consistent throughout is that vaccination is prevention. You do it while youre healthy. You do it now, said Dr. Kroger. "Its the most effective thing you can do to prevent both influenza and complications from influenza.

For more information on the flu visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/h1nh1 flu, or www.cdc.flu.gov, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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