In anticipation of flu season, which officially kicks off October 4 , the U.S. government announced the winner of a video contest today to encourage flu prevention, including stopping H1N1 or swine flu.
H1N1 was first detected in mid-April and has since made its way around the world . In the U.S., laboratory-confirmed cases of the virus have led to 9,079 hospitalizations and 593 deaths, reports  the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It was anticipated that cases would increase as students returned to school this month. So far 21 U.S. states  are reporting widespread influenza activity, mostly related to swine flu, which is unusually high for September.
To help combat a rise in all types of flu, including H1N1 cases, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced  a video contest on July 9 asking people to create a PSA (public service announcement) on flu prevention. The videos could be 15, 30 or 60 seconds and had to be submitted on the department's YouTube channel . Over 200 videos were entered from across the country and the top 10 entries were chosen and put to a public vote. The winner, who received $2,500 in cash and is featured on national television, was announced, on September 22.
Dr. John Clarke of New York came out on top  with his video entitled “H1N1 Rap by Dr. Clarke.” In it, he creates a rap song clearly laying out steps to stop the virus:
Besides the winning rap video, there were also nine runners up  in the contest, with videos featuring everything from wit to animation to straight up seriousness to get the message of stopping swine flu across. This runner up, entitled “Chainsaw,” uses humor to encourage people to stay safe. In it, a man uses a chainsaw as a form of prevention against the virus:
In the video “Toothbrush” you see a toothbrush being used to clean the surface of objects, ranging from an ATM machine and a computer mouse to a public pay phone. The analogy is gross, but effective:
The video “Simply Fighting” is one of two runners up to use animation. Throughout it a white line morphs into four simple steps for H1N1 prevention: get vaccinated yearly, stay home if you're sick, cover sneezes and coughs, and wash your hands frequently:
Other runner up videos also focus on vaccination as a tool for prevention. The H1N1 flu vaccine is expected to be available  in the U.S. in early October, though you can already get the seasonal flu vaccine, which protects against the flu that arises in the fall. Researchers recently determined that a single injection of the swine flu vaccine is enough to protect against the virus.
Health officials are urging  certain groups of people to be among the first in line for the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available, including pregnant women, school-age children and anyone with underlying health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, or compromised immune systems.
Thumbnail photo of Swine Flu Panic  by Y  on Flickr.