H1N1(Swine) Flu and VaccineThursday, September 24th, 2009
It is September and that being said means that we are starting the flu season. With school only a couple of weeks along, Alexander and I are already coughing and sniffling. This flu season however, is not the same as previous ones. Swine flu (actually called “novel influenza A H1N1”) has become a household word. This is a different type of flu virus because, although it originated from pigs, it is being transmitted human to human far and wide from its original source. This is a virus that we have no natural immunity to and is especially concerning for pregnant women and young children.
The World Health Organization (WHO) as declared H1N1 to be at a state of Level 6 (of 6) Pandemic. A pandemic is an epidemic of worldwide proportions. The virus has already severely affected Asia and South America. Pregnant woman are at greater risk due to changes in their immune systems. Many of the most severe cases have been in previously healthy, pregnant women. We have already had three severe cases here in San Francisco.
There will be two influenza virus vaccines coming out in the next 4 weeks, the normal seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine. Initially it will be available to those at highest risk; pregnant women, children at risk and health care workers. Pregnant women should receive the vaccine. The CDC has an excellent resource page on vaccine and virus facts specifically for pregnant women.
The vaccines come in two variations — a “flu shot” which is a killed version of the virus and a nasal application which is a live, weakened version of the virus. Pregnant women should receive the “shot” vaccine. Anyone ages 2-49 in the household can receive either type. All pregnant women should have both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine. Period. This is a very serious illness and there is no natural immunity to it. The highest percentages of deaths from H1N1 have been in pregnant women. The vaccine is THE safest way to prevent illness and is considered to be safe during pregnancy.
Excellent hand washing techniques are essential and if you are feeling any kind of flu symptoms, please see a doctor early.