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First Defense Against Swine Flu: Seasonal Vaccine

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

Health officials have strengthened their recommendations for seasonal flu vaccines, saying all children ages six months to 18 years old should be immunized, especially because of growing concerns over the H1N1 flu pandemic.

The seasonal vaccine provides little or no protection against H1N1 swine flu, but the immunization can help prevent people from being infected with both at once. Health experts also say the regular flu vaccine can help minimize the effects of the pandemic on schools, workplaces and the economy in general.

“Vaccination against seasonal influenza should begin as soon as vaccine is available and continue throughout the influenza season,” Dr. Anne Schuchat of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

“At this point, 83 percent of the population is recommended to get an annual flu vaccine,” she said. “Unfortunately, only about 40 percent of the U.S. population received the flu vaccine last year.”

Last year the CDC “encouraged” all children to be vaccinated. Now it “recommends” this — advice that does not have the force of law but that can affect what states and insurers do.

Right now, the Food and Drug Administration says it will work with companies and the National Institutes of Health to quickly test experimental H1N1 vaccines with the aim of getting a vaccination plan underway as soon as possible.

“We are continuing to see transmission here in the United States in places like summer camps, some military academies and similar settings where people from different parts of the country come together,” she said. “I think this is very unusual to have this much transmission of influenza during the (summer) and I think it’s a testament to how susceptible people are to this virus.”

So far, 43,771 cases of H1N1 influenza had been officially confirmed, with 302 deaths says the CDC.

“But … that’s really just the tip of the iceberg,” Schuchat said. “We believe there have been well over 1 million cases of the new H1N1 virus so far in the United States.”

She said the CDC would no longer report cases and was working on better ways to estimate how many people had been infected.

Schuchat advised against summer camps offering the antiviral drugs to prevent infection among children.

“At this point we’re strongly recommending them for treatment rather than for prevention,” she said.

To prevent flu, the drugs should be reserved for people at high risk of complications who have been in close contact with a known case, she said.

More Information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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