Sunday, April 13, 2008

Is the H1N1 Vaccine safe?

Written by Nicole Sebula
Tuesday, 20 October 2009 11:34
As a new mom, I have been doing a lot of research on vaccines. One of the vaccines that has been catching my attention is this H1N1 flu shot. Mind you that H1N1 is completely different than the regular flu and requires its own vaccine. The virus is a combination of four known strains of influenza A virus: one endemic in humans, one endemic in birds, and two endemic in pigs (swine). However, how safe is the vaccine that can supposedly prevent it? How much research was done on the side effects? Will it really prevent the H1N1? These are some of the questions that I have been asking myself.

The amount of people that have died with this flu is astounding and very scary especially since my baby is too young to get the vaccination. Globally, the number of official cases of those infected is in the hundreds of thousands. Deaths caused by the virus number in the thousands. What am I supposed to do as a working mother who has to send my child to daycare where he could possibly be exposed to this horrible flu?

My baby is two-months-old. He doesn’t know to keep his hands out of his mouth or wash his hands. His main concerns right now are eating, sleeping and farting. So what can I do as a parent to protect myself and my son from this flu?

First let me explain the symptoms of the H1N1. According to the CDC’s website the symptoms “include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, including 2009 H1N1 and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Severe illnesses and deaths have occurred as a result of illness associated with this virus.”

What we can do to prevent H1N1 Spreading

As the vaccine isn’t wide spread yet, and only being distributed to certain categories, there are some things we can do according to the CDC to protect ourselves and prevent spreading of this flu. These remedies actually help fight against the common cold as well.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. If a tissue is not available, do not cough/sneeze into your hands, use your elbow to cover your mouth/nose. --Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that is alcohol based.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.

Is the vaccine safe?

As for safety concerns, it appears the H1N1 vaccine is being produced identically to seasonal flu vaccine. By most accounts, the same manufacturers who make the seasonal flu vaccine are making the H1N1 vaccine using the same methods and safeguards used over the years to produce seasonal flu vaccine. So it would appear it is no more dangerous than the typical flu vaccine many people get this time of the year. Unfortunatley, my baby is too young for the vaccine. If you are able to get one, you should not have any more worry than you would associate with a typical flu vaccine. If you can't get the vaccine, remember that as contagious as the H1N1 virus is, the best way to fight it is through education, diligence and good old fashioned sanitary habits.

Nicole Sebula is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh and covering the North Hills area for
Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 October 2009 12:21

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December 8, 2008 - It’s December and everyone knows what that means, Santa and Christmas trees, baby Jesus and the Menorah (depending on your religious preference). It seems though many people are having a hard time getting into the spirit this year, perhaps it is that some stores have had out their holiday d├ęcor since before Halloween or maybe it is the economy.
Whatever it is, I think people are slowly getting out of the funk and the official kick-off to the holiday shopping season began November 28th, the day after Thanksgiving, better known as Black Friday.

Stores were offering discounts, coupons and gift cards to the first so many customers in the wee hours of the morning (For the record, I did do my shopping in the early morning hours, and then went to the Pitt game which we won!). However, some people were actually camping out in front of McKnight Road Best Buy! How insane is that?

Nonetheless, with a little more than two weeks until Christmas and Hanukkah the retailers are upping the sales and deals, both in the stores and online. But isn’t there more to the holidays than giving gifts? I mean, I am all about the giving and getting of gifts. Seeing someone’s face light up when you get them something that they wanted, or when you get that power tool or new iPod. However, there is more to Christmas than gift giving (Though I would not complain with something in my stocking from the new Nordstrom store).

Families are putting up their lights and trees and building new traditions within their own families as children are born or grow up. I am a strong believer that traditions this time of year especially are important.

My lights were hung outside after Thanksgiving and the tree will be put up this weekend which will remain up until the first weekend after the New Year. A new ornament is bought every year for the tree. This time of year has many traditions that I love and am very excited about every year.

For many Italians (and European descendants for that matter) Christmas Eve dinner is a night for a full course of fishes. Depending how you were raised or what part of Italy your family was from you either has seven or thirteen different fishes signifying the seven sacraments or the twelve apostles and Jesus.

While many of the dishes vary from one household to another, there are a lot of similarities; many have baccala (a salty cod), smelts, calamari, linguini with clam sauce, crab, and shrimp. I think it is truly whatever your preference is, as my family has molded the meal to our favorites but still not losing sight of the meaning behind the meal.

Also in my family, we have the exchanging of gifts and/or visit from Santa Christmas Eve night. I was taught at a young age that this was because Jesus is born on Christmas day and that the two are very separate occasions. And come on, what kid can honestly wait until Christmas morning to open up all of their gifts. I know if I had to wait I would think I was being tortured.
Another tradition that many have for Christmas Eve is to go to midnight mass. Although I am finding that the hour ‘midnight’ is being moved up to a more reasonable 9 or 10 pm in many perishes.

I suppose this is a good thing as many more might attend the late night mass, but I always thought it was at midnight to signify the birth and the fact that it was December 25th. These are just a few of the things that we do in my family this time of year; please feel free to email me some of your traditions. I would love to hear them.

Happy Thanksgiving! Remembering why we celebrate

"Let us remember that, as much has been given us, much will be expected from us, and that true homage comes from the heart as well as from the lips, and shows itself in deeds." - Theodore Roosevelt

By Nicole Sebula
November 25, 2008 - With Thanksgiving only two weeks away, I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to look at some of the traditions many families practice over the Thanksgiving holiday.

Turkey—everything from a gigantic bird to feed the army sized family to turkey burgers are traditional food for this holiday. And in fact, according to the National Turkey Federation (yes there really is such a thing), 95-percent of Americans eat turkey on Thanksgiving.

Granted, there are regional twists on the traditional turkey, such as coffee rubbed turkey from Hawaii, salt encrusted turkey from New England, and deep fried turkey from the South.
Beside the turkey, my other favorite part of Thanksgiving is watching the highly anticipated football game. Throughout the United States, football on Thanksgiving Day is as big a part of the celebration as turkey and pumpkin pie. This tradition of watching football on Thanksgiving dates back to the first intercollegiate football championship held in 1876 (on Thanksgiving Day).
This year you can expect to see the Tennessee at Detroit, Seattle at Dallas and Arizona at Philadelphia. I have my picks, but I think I am more excited about the game the day after Thanksgiving when Pitt will be hosting WVU at Heinz Field.

As a child I loved watching the parades on television. All of the giant balloons of my favorite cartoon characters coming to life. The first American Thanksgiving Day parade was held 88 years ago in 1920, organized by Gimbel's Department Store (Does anyone remember Gimbel’s?) in Philadelphia, not Macy's as most people believe. The NYC Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade tradition actually began in 1924, and has grown into an annual event of balloons, bands, and floats, with more than 46 million viewers in person and from watching on TV.

One of my favorite things to this day is breaking the wish bone. Hoping that my wish will come true and my end of the bone will be the ‘lucky piece’ as it is being pulled apart. This tradition dates back to the Etruscans of 322 B.C. The Romans brought the tradition with them when they conquered England and the English colonists carried the tradition on to America. That’s a lot of wishes.

The main reason for Thanksgiving is to give thanks. While we might get wrapped up in the years events, it is always nice to take a minute to stop and think about what we are thankful for and to pray for those who might not be so lucky.

And lastly, I am one of those ‘crazy’ people that get’s up at 4 in the morning the day after Thanksgiving to get all of my Christmas shopping done. When talking about Thanksgiving traditions, I cannot leave out my annual trip on Black Friday. For years I have been going out to the stores, Macy’s, Kohl’s, and Circuit City (to name a few) to get all of the bargains.

It used to be a family affair when I was little, now somehow I have managed to lose my family (I think it is the wee hours of the morning that deter them). I am getting geared up for this years trip to the shopping areas. I always bring breakfast bars and Gatorade because provisions are good. That turkey and pie only keeps me filled up for so long. What ever your traditions are for the holiday weekend, I wish you a safe and happy one.

Nicole Sebula is a contirbuing writer to AcrossRoss. Learn more about Nicole at her writing website: Nicole is the also the author of soon-to-be-released book, My Crazy Life.

Ross / West View back-to-school fashion special
By Nicole SebulaSpecial to

August 04, 2008 - As August approaches and the dreaded (for the kids) back-to-school shopping season begins, the shopping excursions to get the hottest, cutest, trendy fashions will go into high gear.

Speaking of gear, as I clearly remember from when I was in school, this is a big deal.
The question at hand is what is trendy this school season? Hopefully the fashionistas are not bringing back those dreaded stirrup pants… That is a trend no one needs to re-live. I will admit to being guilty of wearing the pants back in the day, but as I look back at pictures, they were not attractive at all…

Graphic printed t-shirts and hoodies will continue to be a trend this season. Pair them with a pair of plaid shorts or some denim add some flip-flops or sneakers and you are ready to go. Perfect for that first month of school, while it is still hot out.

Another big trend this season is the ‘rocker’ look. Blazers, vests, white t-shirts paired with knickers and some ballerina flats for the girls. For the boys, themed t-shirts or tattooed imprinted tees, skinny jeans and motorcycle jackets.

Never fear, the polo shirts are still in fashion. This season though, they are making the look more British, pairing the shirts with blazers and khaki pants. Some looks seem to never go out of style.

It is nice to have an old stand-by sitting in the wings of the fashion show. Jeans are always a big part of anyone’s wardrobe. But what is this years trend… boot cuts, low rise, skinny, bright colors? Bright colors are fine as long as it is not your denim, save the bright colors for your shirts, cardigans or hoodies. Denim is all about the dark wash this season… in whatever cut fits your body the best. Wide legged jeans are staying strong and so are the skinny jean.

Shoes… what are trendy this season for the back to schooler you might ask…
For the girls… The ballerina flat continues to be a top trend, as are maryjanes, weggies, and the fun printed rain boots. For the boys… it’s all about the slip-on vans sneakers. Fun and comfortable.

The last thing that the kids will need as they head off for their first day is a backpack. There are several types and picking the perfect one that lasts throughout the school year is important. Everyone seems to be going green this year, so why shouldn’t your backpack be environmentally sound as well. There are a lot of eco-friendly backpacks made with recycled plastic and materials.

For the little kiddies that like the character book bags, the cool ones for this season are Transformers Optimus Prime, Batman, Veggie Tales, Kung Fu Panda, The Incredible Hulk, Harry Potter and Star Wars. As I look at these names, it makes me laugh as many of these were popular back when I was in first grade, I guess like they say fashion trends go in circles.

For those in high school or college, you might want to try the 3-way bag that converts from a backpack, messenger bag or tote. They have special compartments for laptops and accessories. The bags are also weather resistant and very durable.

Nicole can be reached at
Time for spring cleaning in Ross Township and West View
By Nicole Sebula
AcrossRoss Staff

March 27, 2008 - The sun is shining, temperatures are warming, birds are chirping. That could mean only one thing – it's time for spring cleaning. The task that all people dread. I am here to provide you with some helpful tips to make it a little less daunting.

Plus, follow these tips and you will save time getting your Ross Township or West View townhome, ranch, multi-level, Cape Cod, Colonial or Apartment whipped into shape just in time to see and smell that fragrant first bloom.

First and foremost, before even starting make sure you have all the supplies you will need. Paper towels, cleaning products, vacuum bags, etc. There is nothing worse than diving into a project and finding out you are all out of garbage bags. I recommend the Dollar Tree in Wes View Plaza for a number of these supplies. You will save some money over the brands at Giant Eagle and K-Mart and the quality is comparable.

Remember time is a valuable asset. So if you live in Perrysville and walk to Vater's Hardware; keep in mind the gas you save in your car versus the difference in pennies you might pay for cleaning supplies at a cheaper, mass outlet store. In fact, need to schedule a tune up as well. You got Vince's Automotive a short walk away. Get that done too.

Now that you have all of your products, put on those old comfy clothes and turn up the radio. Start in one room and work there until you are completely done. Don't jump from one room to the next without completing the first. It will only cause you more work in the end. Make piles of items you would want to donate or sell in a garage sale and things that you just want to throw away. If you don't use it then get rid of it. In fact, if you never used an item last season, what makes you think you will this time? This is a time to get rid of clutter. Take it the Goodwill drop-off on McKnight.Do it around noon. That way, while you are there, you can take a break and grab some lunch at Panera Bread.

This is called multitasking and it will save you time and money in terms of gas in the car. The idea is when you have to make a trip, think about what other chores within reason you can knock off along the way. You want to stay focused on the spring cleaning so keep side chores to a minimum. Do the ones that make the most sense. When cleaning the kitchen, get rid of the week old Nacho's Grande from The Fox and Hound and other foods that might be hanging out in your pantry for no good reason. This is also a great time to throw away your old dish rags and sponges. Get new ones.

Pick up any throw rugs you have and if possible wash them – if not, shake the dirt out of them and air them out. Need new rugs – visit Roth Carpet and pick out a fresh design. While you are there, save time by getting your Pet supplies at the Pet Smart next door. But don't doddle on things you don't need. This is a spring cleaning mission. A good tip for cleaning butcher blocks is to use a few drops of a mild detergent and warm water.

When cleaning the bathroom, replace your shower liner and any nonslip stickers you have in the shower. Wash your rugs in hot water and get rid of any old products in your medicine cabinet. A good tip for cleaning the bathroom sink is to fill it with hot water and add a cup of bleach, let it soak for an hour. Drain and rinse thoroughly. Scrub with a nonabrasive cleaner and again rinse thoroughly. Spray with a glass cleaner, wipe dry.

Other important things to remember during the spring cleaning are to change your smoke detector batteries. You don't want the Berkley Hills Fire Department to come break your door down after you just finished cleaning the place. Check lamps and light bulbs to make sure all are working efficiently. Replace or get rid of anything that has a tattered cord or loose switch. The idea is when you make the trip to Home Depot, make it once. Get what you need and get out and get on with Spring in your sparkling clean home or apartment.