As the novel H1N1 vaccine becomes readily available to everyone both on and off base, let's take a moment to talk about the benefits and disadvantages to getting vaccinated.
There are a lot of questions floating around lately, one I've been asked in particular:
Is it still worth my while getting vaccinated when cases of the flu seem to be on the decline?
Since early November, cases of H1N1 have continued to decline both nationwide and in the state of Utah. Scientists keeping track of the numbers say that as pandemics go, novel H1N1 may turn out to be a mild one, at least for the time being.
However, history has demonstrated spikes in flu cases often correlate to the return of the school year for children. If you've been to the mall or movie theaters lately you'll have noticed many kids are out for holiday break. So there remains a good potential for a second wave of influenza illness once school starts up again, thanks to all of our little disease-carrying hosts (children).
In addition, some health officials acknowledge that the novel H1N1 pandemic is not over. What worries them most is that as both seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses circulate among the population, the two strains could recombine into a more virulent and aggressive version that could cause more widespread illness and even death.
So, getting vaccinated for both the seasonal and novel H1N1 influenza strains, in addition to adhering the following prevention techniques will significantly reduce your chances of getting sick.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. (Germs spread this way.)
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.
Another question I've been asked recently:
Should I still get vaccinated for the flu if I've already been sick with it?
If you were ill but do not know if you had the novel H1N1 infection, you should get vaccinated. So, most people recommended for novel H1N1 vaccination should be vaccinated with the H1N1 vaccine regardless of whether they had a flu-like illness earlier in the year. If you have had the novel H1N1 flu, as confirmed by an RT-PCR test, you could have some immunity against the novel H1N1 flu and may choose not to get the novel H1N1 vaccine. However, vaccination of a person with some existing immunity to the novel H1N1 virus will not be harmful.
Any immunity from novel H1N1 influenza infection or vaccination will not provide protection against seasonal influenza. All people who want protection from seasonal flu should still get their seasonal influenza vaccine as well.
For any additional questions on vaccination eligibility or for immunization clinic hours of operation, please contact the following either of the following at the corresponding phone numbers: 75th Medical Group Public Health at (801) 586-9582 or the 75th MDG Immunizations Clinic at (801) 777-5209.