Tuesday, October 27, 2009

H1N1 Un-scare

I really appreciated this newsletter from our pediatrician, a different perspective on it all, so I thought I'd pass it on...

By the way, Michael and I already got it, and it looks like Linda is getting it too.  Not fun, it hangs on for a while, but no worse than any normal flu.  It was weird having cold-like symptoms and also feeling a bit flu-ish.

Dear Families,

Don't panic. Breathe. Wait, don't breathe, you might catch a germ!  Stay home! Wear masks!  Wash your hands constantly!  Remove your children from all public activities!  Stay home! Build a flu bunker!

Well, you get the idea.  There has been a lot of media coverage of the flu this week.  Unfortunately, the media's job is to obtain viewers, not to give you balanced, non-sensational medical information.  We have been inundated with H1N1 flu questions this past week. Everyone seems much more nervous, due in large part to the escalating news coverage.  Everyone remembers the one exception covered on 60 minutes, but let's set some basic facts straight about this flu:

1.  It is milder than typical winter influenza.

2.  This is a very contagious strain, so it is likely that many members of our community will get it.  The incubation period is 3 days.  If you have no symptoms 5 days after exposure, you likely will not get the virus.

3. If you get the virus, 30% of you won't even get a fever and will think you have just a cold.  If you do get fever, it will typically be for 2-3 days.  A few children have had fever for as long as 5-7 days, but this is very unusual in our patients who are treating their flu with natural means.

4.  Most of the people who have gotten very ill have significant pre-existing medical conditions like chronic lung disease.  In fact, proportionally, more "healthy" people get very ill with regular winter flu than have gotten very ill with this flu.

5.  So far, our families that have had the flu have recovered quickly and easily, with little need for bloodwork, antibiotics, chest x-rays, etc.  Even children with a history of asthma or wheezing seem to be less likely to wheeze with this illness.  We are very happy overall with how our patients are weathering this storm. 

6.  If you have had a flu like illness (fever, muscle aches, headache the first day, with runny nose and cough symptoms) then you may have already had H1N1!  The CDC says unless you know for sure it was H1N1 you should still get the vaccine, but this is likely overkill and you probably don't need it.

7.  Initially we were quite concerned about the H1N1 vaccine because it was going to contain a controversial new ingredient that had not been used in regular vaccines in the U.S.  Luckily, the CDC changed their mind and opted not to use this new adjuvant, squalene.  As far as we know, the vaccine that will be supplied to us from the government will be manufactured in a manner similar to our usual preservative-free flu vaccine.  So, we feel more comfortable with the idea of our patients receiving this vaccine.

We will have a limited supply of preservative-free H1N1 vaccine.  We will prioritize vaccine for high-risk families such as those with pregnant women, or children of any age with a history of pneumonia or asthma.   Once these families are covered, we can open up our supplies to any families that desire the vaccine.  Adults should get their vaccine from their primary care provider.  Pregnant women should be sure to ask for the preservative free version as it does not contain mercury.

8.  Let us be clear, again, that we feel most people don't need this vaccine.  This is a mild flu and it may be better to get it now and have immunity for the next time it goes around, or next year's strain.

No comments: