Don't Skip Swine Flu H1N1 Vaccine
Howard LeWine, M.D.
Q: Do I really need the H1N1 swine flu vaccine? I read that this flu is actually weaker than the usual seasonal flu. And there are no new cases in my community.
A: It's still too soon to call the 2009 H1N1 influenza A strain a weaker virus than the usual influenza virus. Yes, the total number of deaths caused by this flu is slightly below what many public health officials had expected. However, the scary fact is that the deaths are occurring in younger people. About 80 percent of the deaths have been in people ages 18 to 64.
There are a couple of reasons why younger people have a higher risk of complications from this new H1N1 virus.
First, no similar virus similar to this one has circled the globe in more than 60 years. So those under the age of 65 have virtually no natural immunity against this strain.
Second, younger people have stronger immune systems. This might not seem to make sense. If they have stronger immune systems, shouldn't they be able to fight off the virus more easily? The problem is that sometimes the immune system overreacts. In rare cases, the immune system goes wild. It can cause widespread inflammation and organ damage throughout the body in an attempt to fight off the virus.
I also worry that an estimated 85 percent of people have not been infected. Even if 20 percent of Americans have had the vaccine against H1N1, that still leaves almost two-thirds at risk of this infection.
My other worry is that this H1N1 virus could evolve to become even more contagious and to cause more severe disease. Typically, flu viruses thrive in cold, dry air. This virus appeared in the warmer months. It stayed active through a relatively warm November in
If you haven't done so already, get vaccinated against H1N1
The seasonal flu vaccine does not provide protection against this flu.
It is great to hear that the number of H1N1 infections seems to be slowing down. But this does not mean that the pandemic is over. We can put those odds in our favor if everyone eligible for the vaccine gets it.
Vive la Resistance to Flu
Vaccinating people against swine flu may be a lot easier than anyone dared hope, as it turns out that people have an unexpected degree of immunity to the pandemic now sweeping the world.
In an effort to contain swine flu, the French Health Ministry this week called for citizens to avoid "all direct contacts between people and particularly with sick people," which means no kissing or shaking hands.
This may go down in history as the most confusing flu season ever, given that a vaccine for the new H1N1 swine flu isn't yet available, but the plain old seasonal flu vaccine is. Talk about a recipe for pandemonium at the pediatrician's office!
Seasonal Cold or Swine Flu? Moms Face Tough Calls
I sent my 11-year-old son to school today with a stuffy nose and mild cough, as I've done countless times in the past. Now, though, I'm wondering whether I should have kept him home. How do I know it's really a garden-variety cold and not the swine flu?
The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases made it easy to think that all children will need just one swine flu immunization, but that's not true. The younger a child is, the less well his or her immune system responded to the swine flu vaccine in clinical trials. So children under age 10 will need two doses of swine flu vaccine, one month apart, according to the NIAID itself.
Better Ways Medicine Can Beat Back Swine Flu
Bernadine Healy M.D.
Yes, today's swine flu outbreak could change quickly. But it's time to give up the ghosts of 1918 that so haunt our medical thinking. Our challenges today are not what they were when we had nothing to offer but are more about knowing just what to offer, when, and to whom. This swine flu pandemic promises to teach numerous lessons that will inform future crises. Some are already evident
(c) 2009 U.S. News & World Report