The flu season is just beginning, but already a staggering 76 children have died from the H1N1 virus, most of whom had a developmental disability or an underlying medical condition.

The numbers are sobering, but don’t take them lying down, says Georgina Peacock, a developmental pediatrician who is co-leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s children’s health team responding to H1N1.

Instead, it’s time to take action, Peacock tells Disability Scoop. Here’s how:

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Identify if you’re at risk

First off, determine if you’re at high risk for H1N1, or swine flu. Unlike the traditional seasonal flu which targets the elderly and the very young, H1N1 is predominantly affecting children and young adults.

The following groups are at high risk, according to Peacock:

• Children under 2-years-old.

• Individuals with neurologic disorders like epilepsy, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability or developmental delay. This risk is further heightened for those who have multiple disabilities or respiratory problems.

• People who have problems with immune functioning, heart disease or their endocrine system, plus those who have conditions like diabetes or a metabolic disorder.

Create a flu plan

If you’re at high risk, you’ll need to take quick action if you do get the flu, so being prepared is paramount, Peacock says.

Get in touch with your doctor before any symptoms are present to create a game plan just in case. It’s important to know how to get in touch with your doctor right away if you suspect swine flu.

“Each health care provider works a little differently,” Peacock says. “It’s better for parents to talk about this up front to know what to do because we know that it’s important for people with high risk conditions to get early evaluation and treatment.”

Be Proactive

In the meantime, make sure that your house is a haven of prevention. Routine hand washing and good cough etiquette are key.

This can be tough when children with disabilities are involved, so it’s important for caregivers to take the lead, Peacock says.

“If a child, for example, is coughing and they’re not able to cover that cough, then obviously the caregiver would need to assist with that,” Peacock says. “Make sure that caregivers wash their hands well and if a child puts their hands in their mouth a lot, then they’re going to have to be more vigilant to be sure that their hands are kept clean.”

Next Page: Vaccination, Precautions and What To Do If You Get The Flu >>

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