Where do we stand with swine flu, more properly known as the influenza type A H1N1 virus? One contact told me there have been 37,000 cases in Louisiana alone, others are reporting similarly scary-sounding numbers in other parts of the world. None of these figures is as high as incidence rates for the annual seasonal flu. On a recent checkup, my doctor didn’t mention H1N1 vaccination, but did book me in for the seasonal jab. Another physician tells me that H1N1 incidence will likely rise in the coming weeks as winter approaches and children mix at school. Fortunately, he also told me he has heard nothing to suggest that H1N1 will be of similar virulence to the killer Spanish flu pandemic of 1918-19.
However, researchers recently reported that pandemic flu can infect cells deeper inside the lungs than seasonal flu. Whether that has health implications or not will depend on just how aggressive the emerging strains of H1N1 actually are.
At the end of August, the Guardian reported that, the first batch of swine flu vaccine had arrived in the UK. At the time, the vaccine was being held in storage while manufacturers awaited chief medical officer approval for the product. Approval is likely within the month. Meanwhile, on a positive note, ABC news reported that one dose may be sufficient for the swine flu vaccine, which is good news or the pregnant women getting the first swine flu shots in the US as reported here.
Advice on preventing flu infection abounds as it does every year at this time regardless of the flu strain being discussed. The advice boils down to regular handwashing, avoiding shaking hands, keeping fingers away from face, keeping your guts health, and staying at home if infected.
Time asks via one of its blog sites how reliable are the swine flu death projections? while Canada.com is stressing that we should vaccinate now to curtail swine flu. The New York Times takes a Eurocentric perspective to tell us that Europe is bracing for swine flu’s potential. Thankfully, early data have shown the H1N1 flu vaccine to be highly effective.
And, on a final note that should put a spring in the step of any gerontologist, research also suggests that survivors of the 1918 Spanish flu are immune to swine flu.