Double Trouble: H1N1 Flu and Seasonal Flu
HOUSTON – If you have read a newspaper or watched the news lately, you probably have heard about an unusual flu virus making people sick this year. The “H1N1 Flu,” also known as “Novel Flu” or “Swine Flu,” is different from the annual, “Seasonal Flu” health care providers see every fall and winter.
The H1N1 Flu is of concern to experts in the medical community because it is so new that very few people have any protection or “immunity” which means the virus may easily find vulnerable people to infect. As a result, it may spread rapidly to large numbers of people. Therefore, health care facilities may find it difficult to care for large numbers of patients with severe illness.
Another concern is the H1N1 Flu appears to cause a more severe illness in younger adults than the Seasonal Flu.
However, it is important not to ignore or forget about the Seasonal Flu. It kills approximately 36,000 Americans each year and hospitalizes more than 200,000. Luckily, in most people, the flu ranges from a mild cold to a nasty, feverish illness with a sore throat, headaches, and muscle aches.
Each year, health care experts predict which Seasonal Flu virus will spread and start the production of a flu vaccine in time to protect our citizens.
The Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC) and its four outpatient clinics are currently vaccinating against Seasonal Flu. Vaccination remains the single most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu.
Veterans who should seriously consider vaccination for Seasonal Flu are:
Although H1N1 Flu has been spreading slowly for the last year, it has taken scientists longer to get the right strain of virus to make, test, and produce a vaccine against it. A H1N1 Flu vaccine is currently being distributed. The MEDVAMC received its first shipment of 300 doses in mid-October.
Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following groups have priority for the H1N1 Flu vaccine:
Once the demand for vaccine for the first four groups has been met, the CDC recommends vaccinating everyone from the ages of 25 through 64 years. Current studies indicate the risk for H1N1 infection among persons 65 and older is less than the risk for younger age groups. Once vaccine demand among younger age groups has been met, the CDC recommends providers should offer vaccination to people 65 or older.
Both types of flu are thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing of infected people. You can reduce your chance of getting sick and infecting others by:
For more information about the H1N1 Flu, the Seasonal Flu, and vaccines for both, contact the MEDVAMC Preventive Medicine Program at (713) 794-8768 or visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov *.
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