A lot of people have been asking me what I think of the H1N1 virus and the vaccine that will eventually be made available to the public. Here are some facts to start out with - these come right from the CDC website. More than 9000 hospitalizations and nearly 600 deaths have been reported to CDC associated with H1N1 - of these deaths, approximately 95 have been in children (as of this post 10/26/09).
Now granted, annually, approximately 36,000 deaths occur with regular seasonal flu. This fact alone should at least make you think about getting your seasonal flu shot, if you haven't already done so.
I also agree that the press has been hyping the situation up for the past six months with the H1N1 story - prior to that months and months of stories about the bird flu (remember bird flu?). Plus, with the president declaring an "national emergency" with regard to H1N1 this past weekend, this will add further fuel to the fear fire.
What about the virus? Is it around? I can only speak from where I live and work. And, it wasn't until 7 days ago when I really started seeing cases with my very own eyes. I've heard rumors in the community from docs and patients that "it's out there." This past week in the office was one of the busiest times, at least for me personally, I've had in a while. So, the virus is around here and it's real.
What about the vaccine? Good and bad information about this has been circulating for months. What I can tell you is that the process of making the vaccine is exactly the same as it is for the seasonal flu vaccine. It takes about six months to get a vaccine to market for consumption. The H1N1 was isolated in Mexico in April - and six months from then - is exactly right now. The same manufacturers and the same production plants are used.
How the seasonal flu vaccine is made is that a combination of (killed) viruses are put together to make a vaccine. These are the viruses that are thought to be the most common in the upcoming flu season. The H1N1 vaccine is only made for one virus, because it was too late in the production process to put the virus in the pipeline with the regular seasonal flu vaccine.
It's true that for a majority of the population, an H1N1 infection will be relatively mild. People will feel sick - maybe miss some work or school - but for the most part, no serious complications. However, I'm concerned with those populations who have an increased chance of bad complcations, like pregnant women, young children, and those with chronic medical conditions like asthma. Infection in these high risk populations would set you up for bad stuff like pneumonia, possible hospitalization, and even possible, death.
Adults who would not have a serious feeling infection would have the potential to pass H1N1 to one of these high risk groups who may have serious complications. That is why some in the medical community is pushing so hard for immunization - to protect the high risk groups, and to immunize people who may be in contact with the high risk groups.
When it comes to immunization, it's definitely a personal decision. The only thing I ask is to just ask yourself this question - What is the risk to yourself (and your kids) if you DO get the H1N1 vaccine (mild side effects, in my opinion) verses the risk if you DO NOT get the H1N1 immunization?
Sorry for the extra long answer. But, there is no simple way to explain the situation. I hope this clarifies some issues for you and doesn't muddy the water more. Don't forget to watch the video above and the video below that were recorded on TV news with regard to H1N1. Feel free to leave comments below. If you want to see me talk about other medical topics on a local newscast, I invite you to check out mikesevilla.tv