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Swine Flu Isn't Going Away

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

Novel influenza H1N1 (swine flu) is not going away and seems to currently be spreading in the Southern Hemisphere with Australia, Chile and Argentina reporting a “significant number of cases” as their flu season begins. The United States typically sees those strains of “flu” that circulate in the Southern Hemisphere during our summer months become the “flu” viruses for the winter months in the U.S. It is a cycle. So, with that in mind and also knowing that we have already seen as estimated 1 million cases of swine flu in the United States since early spring (not a typical time for flu) it looks like this could be a very busy flu season. Remember, we will also have other influenza viruses circulating at the same time, typically an influenza A (not swine) and B strain each winter. Novel H1N1 also seems to be more prevalent in the younger age groups, especially those under the age of 25.

Manufacturers are continuing to work on producing a “swine flu” vaccine and it is being reported that the vaccine is entering trials to test its effectiveness and to also determine if more than one dose will be required. Results of these trials are expected in August and if all goes well the vaccine may be ready for distribution by October. We will have to await further information on the trials.

With that being said, and knowing that the younger population seems to be most affected, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, has announced that it may be important to partner with schools as sights for a large scale vaccination program. She stated that state and local health officials should “be prepared for a fall vaccination campaign” focusing on children, health care workers (I guess that means me), adults with underlying chronic diseases, and families with small children and infants. As more vaccine becomes available, more groups would be vaccinated.

The Advisory Council on Immunization Practices (ACIP) will meet at the CDC in late July to also consider which age groups should get the vaccine. Typically flu vaccine is not given to infants under six months of age.

This is going to be an ongoing issue and I think a VERY busy flu season. Make sure that you have plans to get your routine flu vaccine beginning in September and we will all wait to see if swine flu vaccine will be available later in the fall. This is NOT a year to miss you or your child’s routine flu vaccine.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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