Posts Tagged ‘Vaccine’

Swine Flu Update: November 4

November 4, 2009

I was able to get my H1N1 flu shot last Saturday! My State Health Department has a hotline for information on the H1N1 vaccine; since I am in a high priority group I called every few days to check on the availability. I think I got to be on a first name basis with most of their phone staff. But last Tuesday, instead of telling me the usual “Check back in a few days,” the operator asked if I would like to make an appointment to receive the vaccine! I took the earliest time available! Check your State Health Department’s website and see if they list an information line for the H1N1 vaccine and start calling!

Here’s a startling and sobering fact that you need to know: So far, 1 out of every 25 pregnant women who has contracted H1N1 has died. Take a breath, back up, and read that statement again. Read it until it has been hammered into your brain. Click the link and read the article that backs up that statement. Now, start making plans to get your H1N1 shot.

In regard the above statistic, exactly how deadly is H1N1? No one is sure. The standard measure of disease lethality is the Case Fatality Report, or CFR. Getting the CFR of H1N1 is simple math: Divide the number of people who died from H1N1 by the total number of people who contracted H1N1.

No matter what, the CFR is going to be wrong. There are going to be cases that go undiagnosed. Some people will wake up feeling miserable, realize they probably have the flu, and lock themselves away until it passes. Doctors make mistakes, and the rapid results test for H1N1 is only about 60% accurate. But the best that we can tell, H1N1 has a CFR of 0.5% for all reported cases. Regular Seasonal Flu CFR is usually about 0.1%. Both numbers are very small, but you can truthfully say that H1N1 is five times deadlier than the Seasonal Flu.

In other news, the United States has emptied its reserves of Children’s Tamiflu. Don’t worry, more is coming, and Adult Tamiflu can be “cut” to the correct dosage for children.  But that is one of those “Don’t try this at home!” activities, you don’t know what you are doing. Ask your local Pharmacist for guidance.

The Ukraine has banned public gatherings in an effort to control the spread of H1N1, since 67 people have died of “the flu”. This flu is not specifically identified but H1N1 is the most virulent illness out there right now. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko addressed the nation about the flu situation – and placed all the blame for being unprepared squarely on his Prime Minister:

My request of May to the Prime Minister to allocate funds to establish a lab, to “arm” us in the situation, when the world is smitten by the epidemic of this flu, to date has not been answered.

Oh, boy.

There is also a looming crisis in Canada. The Providence of Alberta – in fact, all of Canada – was planning for a ho-hum, wait and see response by the public to the vaccine. Then three children died of H1N1 and there was a huge rush of people ready to be vaccinated. Still, things were under control until the manufacturer informed the Government of Alberta about vaccine shortages the day before the drug was needed. Clinics were suspended and a carefully crafted vaccination plan thrown into confusion. Nobody knows exactly what is going on and the opposition is calling for the Health Minister’s head. It’s becoming a political issue rather than a Public Health issue, and that’s dangerous. Meanwhile, a prominent Swedish politician has died from H1N1. North Korea claims not to have any cases of the Swine Flu. The South Korean government believes them – the average North Korean is undernourished and more susceptible to any kind of illness.  NK is probably taking drastic steps to make sure H1N1 can’t run free in their country.

Again, I have received my H1N1 vaccine, and I recommend you do the same.

Even More Flu News!

October 12, 2009

It always seem to happen – I save up some good links about the H1N1 Swine Flu, go back through them and read them carefully, type an informative post… and as soon as I publish it, I find even more information that I think you could use.

It’s happened again, as usual. But instead of saving them until my next Flu Update, I decided to post them today. They’re pretty important links that you should  read, but also I have to see the doctor today. It’s my first time seeing this doctor, so I don’t know how long it will take.

I’m not seeing a new specialist – my usual doctor (my Primary Care Physician, for those of you who don’t live in the United States) recently retired, and this is my first appointment with my new doctor. Since my heart is *ahem* quite unusual, I think I’ll be there for a while!

But on to the flu… If you have a TamiFlu prescription for your child, be very careful. Doctors usually prescribe liquid medication in milliliters, but the TamiFlu box has a syringe that measures Milligrams. These measurements are not the same, and you could easily give too much or too little of the drug.

Revere over at Effect Measure (who has become one of my favorite Flubloggers) has a look at Intensive Care Unit (ICU) occupancy in the Southern Hemisphere and has some disturbing news: ICU units could get slammed. It’s not so much that we don’t have enough ICU beds to deal with a crisis, you have to have a staff with the required amount of medical training.

The second wave of H1N1 is sweeping the United States, brought on my close contact. As I’ve mentioned before, Influenza loves a crowd, and it is fall – school is back in session. Flu is even altering our worship habits: The Archdiocese of Winnipeg is taking steps to limit the spread of the Flu. No Holy Water for a while (but there is hand sanitizer) and shaking hands is discouraged. The public area is sanitized after each service, and even the Chalice gets wiped after every use. It feels strange, I’m sure, but I think God understands.

And finally, a post that I hope will reassure those who have questions about the vaccine. You really do need this immunization, especially if you have a Chronic Illness. I’ve had my seasonal flu shot, I’m on the lookout for the H1N1 shot, and I highly recommend that you do the same.

And now, off to the doctor’s office!

Swine Flu Update: October 10

October 9, 2009

The H1N1 Swine Flu Vaccine is starting to be distributed nationwide, and just in time, it seems. Pregnant women have been hit especially hard by this bug and they are one of the priority groups that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends receive the vaccine as soon as possible. Children are also being hit hard – 19 have died this week.

Do you have the Swine Flu? Microsoft and Emory University have teamed up to create an online Flu Quiz – answer a series of questions, and your computer will compare your answers to a list of known symptoms and then inform you of the possibility that you have the flu. I answered the questions last night and the computerized doctor told me I was OK! But if someone in your home does have the Flu, here is the CDC’s informational guide for taking care of them while hopefully avoiding catching it yourself.  (If you live with someone who has the Flu and you are in a high risk group, you need to stay six feet away from the patient. Sounds like a good time to hire a Home Health Nurse.)

There have been questions raised about the safety of the vaccine, and here is the CDC’s web page addressing those issues. Also, there has been no link shown between vaccine and Autism. There was a research report from England published 10 years ago that seemingly linked the Mumps, Measles, and Rubella (MMR) vaccine with increased occurrences of Autism; but further research call those results into question. Most of the authors of that original research have since said that their research didn’t seem to hold up.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I have taken the vaccinations that have been recommended to me over the years, and there have been no side effects other than occasional soreness at the injection site. And with my heart defect, I feel that I would have been more suceptable to any adverse reaction.

But wait, there’s MORE!

October 1, 2009

Call today, and you’ll receive…. your flu shot!

I  thought I would pass what I learned today along to you: I called the local office of my state health department (the Department of Health and Environmental Control, spelled DHEC and pronounced “dee-heck”) and asked about the status of the H1N1 vaccine. I was told that the FluMist would be available next week, (they thought) and the injections two weeks after that.

Good, I said; I am in one of the priority groups but my doctor says that I should only get it as an injection.

If that is so you should call this number, the operator told me. That’s our district office. Tell them that you are in a priority group and make an appointment to get the shot. You can tell them that you want to get the shot here rather than travel all the way to the district, too.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is going to allocate shots to the individual states based on population. This is not rationing, but rather an attempt to equalize distribution – a way to make sure that there aren’t 45,000 extra doses available on the West Coast but you can’t find one the vaccine in Florida. And if a state knows that there is a pressing need locally, they can ask CDC to increase their allotment.

So if you know you need to have the H1N1 vaccine, call your state health department. Let them know that you want the shot, and try to set up a time and place to get it… you can always change the details later. But doing so will help make sure that the vaccine is available.

Swine Flu Update: September 24

September 24, 2009

Influenza loves crowds, and H1N1 has (literally) found a captive audience:  Two prisoners in the Federal Penitentiary in Memphis, Tennessee have the Swine Flu. Obviously the prison has been quarantined and the two prisoners segregated from the rest of the population. Prisons are very good at implementing their Lockdown procedures during times of unrest; so hopefully they can overcome this.

There are new cases of H1N1 in Iran, and half of those are from people returning from their pilgrimage to Mecca. The Iranian government recently banned its citizens from going to Mecca this year. The airport in Cairo, Egypt is gearing up to screen their returning citizens in an effort to mitigate H1N1. At least the people who rent private jets are happy!

Health Canada had a whopper of a faux pas this week when they sent relief supplies to reservations in Manitoba: Inside the crate were hand sanitizer, face masks… and body bags! The local authorities are quite upset, as you might imagine. To make it even worse, a manufacturer of body bags told the Ottawa Citizen that sales are up. I can understand making plans for what to do if the worst happens, but do you have to go out and brag about it? Remember the World War II slogan: Loose Lips Sink Ships! or in this case, panic the people.

There is good news – The Centers for Disease Control recently conducted tests in which they injected H1N1 and H5N1 (the Bird Flu) into ferrets. The two diseases did not combine – good news, since H1N1 spreads easier but H5N1 is more lethal. Flu of all types is still unpredictable, but it seems the two can’t be forced upon one another. CDC has revised its guidelines on flu symptoms and when you should seek treatment (as you see more cases, you learn more about how to deal with it) and a nasal spray vaccine will be available the first week of October. It is not recommended for those of us with “heart disease” so I don’t know about CHDers, but I’m betting we’ll have to wait for the shots. But if you are the parent of a medically fragile child and you are healthy, it could be worthwhile to pursue the early inoculation.

As always, it is best to stay calm and watch/read as much news as you can. Find sources outside of your home country, as they often have a different perspective you may not have considered. And I still personally feel that getting the H1N1 shot is very important.

Swine Flu Update: Thursday, August 20

August 20, 2009

Swine Flu has yet another name.

Swine Flu wasn’t good enough; and apparently H1N1 makes the International Union of English Letters and Numbers nervous. An article in the New England Journal of Medicine recently gave it the name S-OIV, short for Swine Origin Influenza Virus. Gee… you wonder if we waste time trying to figure out what to call this thing, it might sneak up and make a bunch of people sick?

The Centers for Disease Control has issued its recommendations for those who should get the vaccine first, and those of us with a Chronic Illness are on the list. As soon as it becomes available, it would pay to get in line – the priority groups total about half of the US population. Mexico is already predicting a shortage of vaccines, at least at first.

H1N1 continues to spread, almost at will – the Costa Rican President has a case of it, along with three politicians from Ecuador. Fans at a Brazilian soccer match were recently forced to wear facemasks to attend a game, which brings to mind this photograph from our past.

There is some good news – the seasonal flu vaccine is going to be ready early. Since the Swine Flu and the “usual” flu strain that is going around are different, we’re going to have to be inoculated for both the regular flu and H1N1. Oh, boy, something else to look forward to. I’m not a big fan of needles – whenever I have a blood test and the tech asks my name and birthday, I always want to ask “Do you think I’d be letting you poke me if I didn’t have to?!?!” But someone, somewhere probably enjoys it just a little bit too much, so I never ask. They may tell me a few things that I’d rather not know!

Swine Flu Update: July 10, 2009

July 10, 2009

New information about the Swine Flu (H1N1) has raised eyebrows recently. Some hedge funds and airports are preparing for the flu – not as preparation for an anticipated natural disaster, but focusing mainly on how to keep their operations going if some of their staff is out sick. Just innocent planning, updating plans already in place… but the fact that they are doing it now should cause a small alarm bell to go off in your head. Scott McPherson says that the worst is yet to come and he presents some pretty alarming numbers along with his prediction.

An illness with flu-like symptoms popped up at Wimbledon during the recent Championships; all four of those affected were told to stay home. “They haven’t been tested for swine flu and they’re not going to be,” a spokesman said. Not very bright on their part. Or perhaps they didn’t test because the Treasury’s empty.

While the number of H1N1 cases is going up, the severity of H1N1 is still mild… unless you happen to have an “underlying medical condition.” The United States is planning a vaccination campaign for the fall, (in addition to the “regular” flu vaccine) and at the moment, it looks as if the H1N1 vaccine will be delivered in two doses. You could protect yourself with a facemask, but there are doubts that they are that effective. BioMask may be the best mask available, and is now available over the counter… in Hong Kong! If you’re not jetting off to Hong Kong for a while, here’s the CDC’s recommendation.

There is still no predicting exactly what is going to happen here – use the internet and your flu resources to keep tracking this illness. Stay informed. You will have to do this on your own, the national media in the United States is not paying attention.

UPDATE: I’ve found more resources for you in my morning search of my sources. Nine more have died from H1N1 in New York City. That’s correct – nine more people have died from H1N1 in an American city. Unless you live in the Northeast, you probably haven’t heard about it. BUT… Michael Jackson is still dead, and that is what is important!

Here’s a report from Johns Hopkins on what we need to be doing now to combat H1N1. Here’s a page from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about what to do if you get flu-like symptoms. CHDers and others with chronic illnesses need to review this link; there are special guidelines for those “at high rick for flu complications” and a list of emergency warning signs.  Here’s another CDC page, about their recommendations to state and local officials for vaccination policies. Again, there is a section that applies to the chronically ill.

And for some first person timely advice, here’s a New York Times article about the school nurse in the center of the worst school outbreak so far.

Flu Update, June 2

June 2, 2009

Swine Flu, or more correctly “A/H1N1”, has faded from our minds but it is still out there.  Flu is not supposed to be a warm weather virus, it should only be active in the Southern Hemisphere at this time of year, but it looks as if someone forgot to tell H1N1. It’s still active in the Northern Hemisphere, just not around here. And since it is not the Crisis of the Week, our media is ignoring it.

But it will probably be back in the winter. From the Patient Empowerment blog, here’s a good look at what is happening to prepare for the next round. One of the more important points noted is the vaccine will probably be a live vaccine, and there could be warnings about getting it. Those of us with weakened immune systems and chronic conditions may not be able to, at least at first. It could be a good time to subscribe to Netflix!

If you or someone you know does get the flu, here is a good synopsis of symptoms that mean it is time to seek medical attention. Anytime you catch the flu, probably the best advice is to get rest and drink plenty of fluids. But if you see these signs start to develop, it’s time to seek some help.

Here’s a new and very good resource for staying updated on the flu from an unusual source: The Chinese newspaper Xinhua. No one seems to be able to figure out where they are getting their information but it seems to be accurate: Revere, the Effect Measure author that I often link to, couldn’t find any reference to the outbreak in Peru on the Internet, but an overseas call by a Spanish speaking friend confirmed the story. Xinhua has sources everywhere, it seems.

The page is updated often and reflects current information – Sunday, for example, the Chinese reported a total of 33 cases of the flu. Earlier today the number had risen to 43.

Important Flu Update: Thursday Night, May 7

May 7, 2009

CNN is reporting that both of the Swine Flu victims who died in the United States had underlying chronic illnesses. The toddler visiting from Mexico fought several illnesses, including a heart defect.

I still think that your chances of contracting the Swine flu are low, especially if you take the precautions of washing your hands and covering your coughs or sneezes. The virus is not airborne; it is transmitted by the droplets generated by coughing or sneezing. (Those are airborne! you say, and you are correct. But the virus is not transmitted by casual contact, it “hitches a ride” on the droplets expelled during coughing or sneezing.)

See a doctor as soon as possible if you develop flu-like symptoms. Make sure the doctor is familiar with your overall health before he prescribes you anything. Some drugs can counter our heart medication. Continue to exercise caution – whenever I get an illness that settles into my chest, I plan to sleep sitting up in the recliner for a few nights: I know that if I lie down, I won’t be able to breathe very well.

And plan now to get the flu shot(s) that are offered next fall. Because the virus never really goes away – Flu can’t do its thing when the weather is hot, so it tends to move to the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are the opposite of what the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing.