Flu watch: Get both flu vaccines, they’re differentEach year 5 percent to 20 percent of the nation’s population becomes sick with the flu. This year we have two types to worry about — H1N1 (also called swine flu) and the seasonal flu, which we see every year in various forms. This year, we also have two vaccines.
By: Dr. Timothy Burke, Duluth News Tribune
Each year 5 percent to 20 percent of the nation’s population becomes sick with the flu. This year we have two types to worry about — H1N1 (also called swine flu) and the seasonal flu, which we see every year in various forms. This year, we also have two vaccines.
The H1N1 strain is active in our area. Vaccine for this strain will come to our region in intervals from state health departments that give us specific guidelines for distribution.
Public health authorities say that everyone who wants an H1N1 vaccination will be able to get one.
While the supply of seasonal flu vaccine is good, shipments have been delayed as pharmaceutical manufacturers have been asked to give priority to H1N1 vaccine production.
Many people have questions about flu vaccines and their side effects. Before addressing those concerns, I want to strongly urge you to get the seasonal flu vaccine for yourself and your family as soon as you can, and get the H1N1 vaccine when it’s available. Immunizing for seasonal flu does not protect you from H1N1 flu.
Remember that the flu is a potentially deadly illness. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 36,000 people die each year from the seasonal flu and that 200,000 are hospitalized.
When it comes to flu vaccinations, people ages 2 to 49 may get a shot that contains killed viruses or a nasal spray that contains weakened live viruses. People with a severe egg allergy or a history of vaccine-related Guillain-Barre syndrome are not candidates for either of these.
Adults need only one dose of each vaccine. Children younger than
10 need two doses of H1N1 vaccine. Children younger than 9 who have never received a seasonal flu vaccine need two doses.
Some parents wonder whether their children should receive the H1N1 vaccine because it is so new and its side effects might not be known. Vaccines for the seasonal and H1N1 flu strains are manufactured the same way except they are made to fight different flu viruses. Hundreds of millions of people have received annual vaccinations over the years without a problem.
A few people do have mild side effects after being immunized, such as tenderness and redness at the injection site, low-grade fever and aches for a day or two. Side effects from the nasal spray can include fever in kids as well as a runny nose, nasal congestion and a sore throat. But these side effects pale in comparison with a full-blown case of the flu.
Some parents also are concerned about thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative found in some vaccines, including those for the flu. The potential link between mercury and autism has been studied at great length by the Institute of Medicine. Its conclusion is that there is no link. If you are concerned about this issue, preservative-free vaccine is available for children.
Next week: How you know whether you have the flu.
Dr. Burke is the health system epidemiologist for SMDC Health System and an infectious disease specialist.