October 14, 2009 at 3:36 pm , by Julia Kagan
Yesterday Emily, my health-blogging-partner-in-crime, and I were standing in line to get our seasonal flu shot like employees all over America whose companies are generous enough to provide them (thank you, Meredith!). Needless to say, everyone in line was talking about H1N1, the kind of flu shot we’re not getting because (1) the vaccine’s still in seriously short supply and (2) most employees are not in the high-risk groups. (See Emily’s story about who is.)
The best way to avoid the flu (either kind) is to wash your hands often; avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth; sneeze or cough into a tissue or your elbow; and stay home when you have flu-like symptoms until you’ve had no fever (without any medication) for 24 hours. Most people who get H1N1 have mild cases and recover quickly. But a small number (roughly 4 percent in a new Canadian study) develop sometimes fatal lung inflammation and other symptoms (usually about four days after first getting sick) that land them in intensive care. Studies just published by The Journal of the American Medical Association give us an early look at what might help them survive, Two findings to remember:
• Tamiflu. In Mexico, critically ill patients who survived were seven times more likely to have taken Tamiflu. Ask about it even if you think you have a mild case.
• Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO). This technique—used in heart-bypass surgery—passes a patient’s blood through a machine that adds oxygen and returns it to the body because severe illness can block the body’s ability to get oxygen. ECMO helped patients in Australia and New Zealand pull through.
October 8, 2009 at 12:06 pm , by Emily Chau
There are a lot of questions out there about the H1N1 vaccine, so we asked Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet, M.D., to give us the scoop. She’s an allergist practicing in the Washington, DC Metro area, founder of Family Asthma & Allergy Care and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.
Who can get the H1N1 vaccine?
While anyone can ask their doctor for the H1N1 vaccine, pregnant women, people who live with or take care of babies younger than 6 months old, children and young adults (6 months to 24 years old), and healthcare personnel have first priority. Adults ages 24 to 65 who have a chronic disease (asthma, immunosuppressive diseases, chemotherapy, cardiac disease, kidney disease) are also in line for the vaccine. A recent study found that adults older than 65 years old have a “less robust” response to the H1N1 vaccine, as is the case with the seasonal vaccine, but these people are also at a lower risk of contracting swine flu.
Is one shot enough?
The single shot dose has been shown to be effective in people 10 years of age and older. Children 9 years old and younger should receive the two-dose vaccine, spaced four weeks apart.
Does it matter whether I get the shot or the spray?
Both the shot and the spray have been show to be equally effective. However, if you have a chronic respiratory disease such as asthma, you should get the shot.
Are there any side effects to the H1N1 vaccine?
Some people are worried that because the swine flu vaccine was developed so quickly, it might not be safe. However, there’s little cause for concern. The H1N1 vaccine was created using the same process as the regular seasonal flu vaccine—we’ve just substituted H1N1 where we would have put another influenza strain. You might feel a little achey and worn out as your body mounts an immunological response to the vaccine. Like the seasonal flu vaccine, the H1N1 flu vaccine is grown in eggs, so people who have an egg allergy should consult their allergist about the appropriateness of receiving the vaccine.
Can I get it at the same time as my regular seasonal flu shot?
You should not get the H1N1 and seasonal flu nasal sprays at the same visit. However, you can receive swine flu shot at the same time as any other vaccine, including the seasonal flu vaccine.
Photo courtesy of Dr. Jackie Eghrari-Sabet.