H1N1 – early September

1 09 2009

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What’s H1N1 doing right now?

The flu virus has been circulating in the southern hemisphere, which is winding down its winter flu season. The good news is that it hasn’t mutated. In the U.S., we can expect to see H1N1 cases along with the regular seasonal flu.

Is there a vaccine?

This year, people ages 6 months or older will be able to get an H1N1 vaccine in addition to the regular seasonal flu vaccine. The H1N1 vaccine has gone through trials to determine safety and appropriate dosage. The testing process involves administering the vaccine, waiting 3 weeks, then taking a blood sample to measure antibodies to see if the dosage of vaccine was adequate.

You will probably need 2 doses of H1N1 vaccine for it to be effective. The H1N1 vaccine will have multiple formulations, as does the seasonal flu vaccine:
•    10-dose vial (which contains thimerosol)
•    Single-dose vials (thimerosol-free)
•    Preloaded syringes (thimerosol-free)

Some people are saying the H1N1 vaccine was developed too quickly. Is that true?

People who are concerned that the H1N1 vaccine was developed too quickly can take comfort in knowing the H1N1 vaccine preparation process is the same as it is for the seasonal flu vaccine and it is made by the same manufacturers. So far, any reactions in the trials for H1N1 vaccine have been the same as for the regular seasonal flu vaccine (soreness, redness). Any serious events that might occur may not appear during the vaccine trial time period because they are so rare.

Who should get the H1N1 vaccine?

People who should get the H1N1 vaccine are:
•    Pregnant women
•    Household contacts and caregivers for babies 0-6 months
•    Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
•    People ages 6 months through 24 years
•    People ages 25-64 years of age who have health conditions putting them at higher risk of complications from influenza

As with the seasonal flu vaccine, people with egg allergies cannot get the H1N1 vaccine.  Check with your provider to see if immunization is right for you and your family.

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H1N1 and Pregnancy

13 05 2009

Some pregnant women are experiencing severe complications from H1N1 infection, including pneumonia, dehydration and premature labor.

In otherwise healthy individuals, flu of any strain or type can be harder on pregnant women than women who are not pregnant.

CDC is recommending that providers immediately start treating with antivirals if they suspect a pregnant woman in their care is infected with H1N1.

The worrisome part to this – and there’s always a worrisome part – is that not a lot of testing has been done to see how these drugs will affect the pregnant woman or the fetus.

Most providers don’t like to prescribe meds for pregnant women and many of their patients don’t want to take meds while pregnant.

But, the risk of harm appears to be greater with infection than with taking the meds, so please consider taking antivirals if you suspect you have influenza.

If you’re pregnant and you think there’s a remote chance you might be infected with H1N1, call your provider immediately.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, Interim Deputy Director for Science and Public Health program at CDC, said yesterday that, “…experts who have looked into this situation really strongly say that the benefits of using antiviral drugs to treat influenza in a pregnant woman outweigh the theoretical concerns about the drugs.”





Flu and Newborns

5 11 2008

In September of 2008, the New England Journal of Medicine printed an article by Dr. Mark Steinhoff and colleagues titled Effectiveness of Maternal Influenza Immunization in Mothers and Infants.

The study and its results present a compelling case for vaccination of pregnant women to protect both mothers and infants against influenza.  In the article, Dr. Steinhoff et al. note, “Inactivated influenza vaccine is recommended for pregnant women but is not licensed for infants younger than 6 months of age.”  If a pregnant mother doesn’t get vaccinated, this leaves the infant unprotected during the first six months of life. 

This study found that if a mother is vaccinated while pregnant, the “inactivated influenza vaccine reduced proven influenza illness by 63 percent in infants up to 6 months of age.”

The study needs to be replicated, as it was rather small.  However, the findings are strong enough that, if pregnant, it makes it worth an expectant mother’s time to talk with an OB/GYN or family healthcare provider to see if vaccination is an appropriate precaution to take.