Facts About the H1N1 Swine Flu and Vaccine
October 26, 2009Posted by pamela |
Here'a a brief Q&A about the "swine flu," otherwise known as the H1N1 influenza, from regular Marin Mommies guest contributor and Marin pediatrician Steven Martel, MD, FAAP. Dr. Martel is a pediatrician with Child’s Light Pediatrics, Inc., an unique house-call pediatric practice in Marin County and San Francisco. For more information, visit www.childslightpediatrics.com,
"Swine flu" refers to a specific type A influenza virus, H1N1.
- What are the signs and symptoms of H1N1 flu in people? The symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to that of regular human flu and include fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Uncommonly, some people have reported diarrhea and vomiting. Like seasonal flu, H1N1 flu may cause a worsening of underlying chronic medical conditions.
- How do you test for H1N1 flu? The nasal passage is rubbed using a special cotton tipped swab and sent to the lab.
- Who should be tested for H1N1 flu? Those who exhibit the symptoms of flu and have fever should discuss the appropriateness of testing with their health care provider. Optimally, testing should occur within a few days of onset of symptoms since treatment should commence within 4-5 days of symptom onset.
- How do I avoid H1N1 flu? Avoid people with respiratory symptoms or illnesses. Wash your hands with soap or alcohol based sanitizers. Non-alcohol based sanitizers may not be effective. Previous seasonal flu vaccination does not confer immunity.
- How long is someone with H1N1 flu contagious? The disease can be transmitted beginning one day prior to onset of symptoms up to 7 days after becoming sick.
- Is there a treatment for H1N1 flu? Nearly all cases in the U.S. have been mild to moderate in severity. H1N1 flu can be treated with one of two different antiviral medications that are used to treat typical seasonal flu. There is no need to maintain an individual supply since those requesting treatment of confirmed H1N1 can receive the medicine from the local Department of Public Health or hospital pharmacies.
Currently the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus causes serious health outcomes for:
- Healthy young people from birth through age 24
- Pregnant women
- Adults 25 to 64 who have underlying medical conditions
Due to the limited availability of vaccine, these groups should receive priority for vaccination. The only vaccine now available is the H1N1 vaccine nasal spray. This can be administered to people who:
- Are between the ages of 2–49 years AND
- Do not have egg allergy, asthma, pregnancy or weakened immune system due to disease or steroids
The H1N1 vaccine shot is projected to be available in November 2009, for any persons older than 6 months of age (although apparently some doctors in Marin, at Kaiser in particular, have recevied some doses of it already).
The vaccine is manufactured using the same process as the seasonal flu vaccine. Thus, the vaccine is expected to be safe and to have a side effect profile similar to that of seasonal flu.
The likelihood of acquiring H1N1 influenza is high for unvaccinated people. Since the complications of disease are high for the groups mentioned above, you should discuss the particular risks and benefits of your particular circumstance with your health provider.
More information on the Web: