Novel H1N1 Flu
When novel H1N1 first appeared, scientists were concerned because they had never seen this strain of influenza before. Whenever a new strain appears, it is hard to predict how severely it will affect people, and which populations and age ranges will be most vulnerable to illness. Scientists now know that like the seasonal flu, pandemic H1N1 can cause serious illness; however, different groups of people are most at risk for severe complications.
Is My Child at Risk?Pregnant women, children, young adults, and people with high risk conditions, such as asthma, arthritis or lupus, diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and heart or kidney disease are more likely to suffer severe complications from novel H1N1. As the vaccine becomes available in your area, officials recommend that these populations be immunized first. As with seasonal flu vaccine, the H1N1 vaccine is not approved for use in children under 6 months of age but this population is at high risk of serious flu complications. Therefore, it is important that people who live with or care for these very young infants are vaccinated. It is important to note that children 9 years of age and younger will need to receive two doses.
People 2 through 64 years of age with certain chronic conditions or a weakened immune system are at higher risk for developing pneumococcal disease after a flu infection. You can learn more about this disease and the vaccines to protect against the illness on the CDC's web page.
What Are the Symptoms?
Novel H1N1 symptoms are similar to those of the seasonal flu although they may be more severe. Symptoms may include fever, headache and/or body aches, fatigue, coughing and/or sore throat and runny or stuffy nose, and chills. In addition, many people with H1N1 have also reported vomiting and diarrhea. If you suspect your child has the flu, you should contact his or her pediatrician immediately. If any family member is diagnosed with the flu, the CDC recommends that they stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever (100°F or 37.8°C) is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol®).
What Can I Do to Protect My Family?
The flu vaccine is the best way to protect your family against the disease. In addition to the flu vaccine, medical professionals recommend washing your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and try to avoid close contact with sick people. However, if someone in your family does get the flu, you may want to talk to your doctor about prescription antiviral drugs, which can prevent the rest of the family from becoming ill and lessen the symptoms of flu. Antivirals will only help those who have contracted the flu if it is taken within two days of experiencing symptoms.
Is the Vaccine for H1N1 Safe?
Because the novel H1N1 virus is simply a different strain of flu, vaccine manufacturers were able to create an immunization using the same technique they use to produce the seasonal flu vaccine. Therefore, the H1N1 vaccine has the same well-established safety profile. Parents should feel confident that immunizing their children for H1N1 is the best way to protect them.
For more tips on how you can prevent and treat the flu, check out www.preventchildhoodinfluenza.org.
For more information about the H1N1 vaccine, visit flu.gov.