H1N1 flu virus, which is commonly known as swine flu, has created alarming situation, especially after the school have opened up throughout the United States. I am sure you must have read about the red alert in Austin, Texas regarding spread of swine flu that resulted in closing of schools. Scientific community and companies are working hard to develop a vaccine for Swine flu, Centers for Disease and Control (CDC) is concerned that the Swine Flu can result in severe 2009-2010 Flu season.
Generally, this time of the year, flu shots are provided for your protection to flu. Seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection against Swine flu. CDC is working hard on Swine flu vaccine and its Advisory committee on immunization Practices (ACIP), met on July 29, 2009, to make recommendations to prioritize availability of the new H1N1 vaccine when it is available.
While some issues are still unknown, such as how severe the flu season, the ACIP considered several factors, including current disease patterns, populations most at-risk for severe illness based on current trends in illness, hospitalizations and deaths, how much vaccine is expected to be available, and the timing of vaccine availability.
I would like to share the recommendations made by ACIP committee members of ACIP. For more information see the CDC press release. CDC Advisors Make Recommendations for Use of Vaccine Against 2009 H1N1.
Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age: If you experience with infants, you must have observed that they are very prone to infections. Infants are at higher risk of influenza-related complications and cannot be vaccinated. Hence, it becomes critical to vaccinate people who are in close contact with infants younger than 6 months old.
Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel: You must have seen signs in restroom of restaurants and cafeteria that “Employees must wash...
their hands with soap”. It is a good analogy for healthcare workers as they are major source of infection to the patients. You can quarantine healthcare professional, if they get infected with swine flu, but, that would reduce healthcare system capacity;
All people from 6 months through 24 years of age
Children from 6 months through 18 years of age: Children come contact with each other either in school or in day care have shown increase in cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza. I think its no brainer for parents as they have seen infections like common cold brought home by children to home, so they should be vaccinated for Swine Flu;
Young adults 19 through 24 years of age: Young population is considered as mobile population and they often live, work, and study in close proximity. They may be the reason that many cases of 2009 H1N1 influenza have been seen in these healthy young adults;
CDC does not expect shortage of 2009 H1N1 Swine flu vaccine, but it is hard to predict availability of vaccine and its demand. Initially, vaccine may be available in limited quantities, so it is important to prioritize, who should receive swine flu vaccine. The guidance provided by CDC will come handy to minimize and should help healthcare professionals in coordinating the efforts of providing the vaccines to everybody, who needs them in the order guided by CDC. I would recommend that you should keep an eye on the swine flu vaccine, when available in your neighborhood and help people get vaccinated as and when needed.