As most parents in Charlotte have already noticed, H1N1 infections are on the rise in our community. According to the CDC, the number of physician visits for flu-like illnesses are higher than expected for this time of year. In the meantime, flu vaccines are difficult to find. What is the reason? We are in the midst of a pandemic. I, like most pediatricians in our community, spend a large portion of my day answering questions about the flu. So I have compiled a list of “frequently asked questions” for readers of MomsCharlotte.
If someone is diagnosed with influenza, does he or she still need a flu vaccine?
Yes. According to the CDC, unless a person was diagnosed with H1N1 flu using a PCR test specific for H1N1 then he/she should still receive the H1N1 vaccine. There is no danger to receiving the vaccine even if a person has had the flu recently.
If my child was diagnosed with the flu, can I assume it is H1N1?
Currently, if a person has a positive flu test then there is a 90% chance that this is H1N1. This statistic may change as seasonal flu strains emerge.
Should my child receive both the seasonal flu and H1N1 vaccine?
Yes. The seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against H1N1 and vice versa.
Is the H1N1 vaccine safe?
Yes. The H1N1 vaccine is prepared in the same manner as the seasonal flu vaccine is every year. Each year, the seasonal flu vaccine is prepared specifically for that season. This year, however, the H1N1 strain had not been identified in time to include it in the vaccine. The separate H1N1 vaccine has undergone the same safety trials and approval process as the seasonal flu shot does each year.
How long does influenza survive on surfaces?
The influenza virus can survive on surfaces for 2-8 hours.
What is a “swine flu party?”
Hopefully there are no moms in Charlotte who are participating in such a thing… But the idea is to expose your own child to another child who has a mild case of influenza with the idea that your child will also have a mild case. This is NOT safe. The same influenza that may cause a mild illness in one child may cause a severe illness in another. Although the majority of influenza cases are mild, influenza can lead to hospitalization or even death.
Is hand sanitizer effective at destroying the H1N1 virus?
Yes. Hand sanitizer is an effective alternative to hand-washing for killing the flu virus.
Why is it so difficult to find flu vaccines (both H1N1 and seasonal) this year?
If you are among the many frustrated moms that would love for your child to receive a flu vaccine but have been unable to find one, you are not alone. Because vaccine companies have had to use many of their resources to ship the H1N1 vaccine, shipment of the seasonal flu vaccine has been delayed. There is not a true shortage of flu vaccine. In the coming weeks, more and more flu vaccine (both H1N1 and seasonal) should become available.
For more information, go to www.cdc.gov