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PSA on H1N1: I am going to be harsh

This morning’s New York Times has a disturbing report about the spread of the H1N1 virus.  This strain of flu is proving to be especially dangerous for pregnant women:

Dr. Schuchat expressed particular worry about pregnant women. As of late August, 100 had been hospitalized in intensive care, and 28 had died since the beginning of the outbreak in April.

“These are really upsetting numbers,” she said, urging obstetricians and midwives to advise patients to get swine flu shots as soon as they become available.

Doctors are also reporting that some parents are not planning to have their little human vectors vaccinated because these parents stupidly want their children to develop “natural immunity” and because they are afraid of the vaccination:

Confirming the centers’ anxiety that many Americans are reluctant to get swine flu shots, Consumer Reports released a poll late Wednesday showing that half of all parents surveyed said they were worried about the flu, but only 35 percent would definitely have their children vaccinated. About half were undecided, and of those, many said they feared that the vaccine was new and untested.

One worrying aspect, said Dr. John Santa, the director of health ratings at Consumer Reports, was that 69 percent of parents who were undecided or opposed to shots said they “wanted their children to build up their natural immunity.”

“Your body produces exactly the same antibodies, whether it’s from a ‘natural’ infection or from a vaccine,” Dr. Santa said. “If your child is the one that dies, you’ve paid a very high price for ‘natural’ immunity.”

Ok, this s%^& really pisses me off.   I get the most ridiculous, hysterical emails every frickin’ day from former PUMAs who really should know better, claiming that the H1N1 “pandemic” is really a global conspiracy to panic people and keep them in their place.  I will admit that when I first heard of this virus, from Obama no less, I too was skeptical.  It seemed a little too Code Orange for my taste, especially since he was getting his first taste of media pushback at the time.  But a little investigation convinced me that this is no faux terrorism alert.  The only global conspiracy that is going on is being perpetrated by the H1N1 virus itself to infect as many hosts as it can get its grubby genetic material into.

And human beings are the perfect baby virus incubators.  Little influenzas just love our warm, moist respiratory systems.  H1N1 likes our gastrointestinal tract too.  What joy!  Because once it gets into an unprotected body, where the local antibody cleanup crew has never seen them before, they get down to business and multiply like crazy and then have an orgy of genetic material swapping with each other.  Yes, YOU parents who refuse to vaccinate your precious vectors may be allowing the virus to mutate into something even more deadly.

Anyway, I can’t spend a lot of time on this because I have to get to work but here are the salient points that you should know if you can’t tell if the H1N1 virus is really serious:

1.) The H1N1 virus is serious because it is the result of antigenic shift instead of antigenic drift. Imagine the seasonal flu genetic material looks like the typical English qwerty keyboard to your body.  The seasonal flu virus can rearrange the letters and your body will adapt because it is somewhat familiar with the typography.  Now, imagine one day a new flu comes in lugging a keyboard in Cyrillic.  The body has to get used to making antibodies with a new alphabet.  This is what we’re dealing with.  The new genetic material is unlike anything your immune system has seen before.  Before your antibodies can get the hang of typing in Russian, the virus will have a perfect opportunity to overwhelm your system.  That is what happened during the 1918 flu outbreak.

2.) Pandemics mean there is more likelihood of a deadly mutation.  A global pandemic means that the virus is hanging around barnyards in third world countries like Afghanistan, mixing sheep and pig and fowl and human genetic material altogether.  And that genetic material spreads all over the world much more quickly via planes, trains and automobiles than it did in 1918.  Add to the mix the well known fact that the influenza virus is promiscuous.  It swaps its genetic material and mutates at a higher frequency than many other viruses.  It uses your body as a petrie dish.

3.) Vaccine makers aren’t going to be able to make huge profits from this bug. Nope.  They signed contracts with the government years ago during the Bush administration to provide the government with vaccine.  During pandemic flu outbreaks, it is very difficult to provide sufficient flu vaccine for everyone.  So, targetted groups get the vaccine.  For example, school children are likely targetted groups because anyone who has one in their possession knows that they are unclean and careless little beasts that cough and sneeze all over each other.  Health care workers will get it.  People with vulnerable immune systems will get it.  You and I will probably NOT get it.  I already asked when I went for my seasonal flu shot.  The companies that make the vaccines turn it over to state and federal government agencies and they decide whether you make the targetted groups list.

4.) The vaccine is as safe as a seasonal flu vaccine. Seriously.  The vaccine has undergone clinical trials for saftey and efficacy and has been approved by the FDA.  I know that back in the 70’s, there was another Swine Flu vaccine that triggered Guillaume-Barre syndrome in some participants.  And that is still a risk for people who have had Guillaume-Barre in the past.  (I’ll have to check to see if this is true for seasonal flu vaccine as well) But even with that caveat, the risk of an adverse side effect is tiny compared to the risk of getting seriously ill from H1N1 and passing that on to some other person.  People with a history of Guillaume Barre syndrome should consult their doctors to see if the risk is serious enough to be excluded.  The flu vaccine should be available to you at the end of the month.  It takes 21 days to build up full immunity to the virus.

Now, to those of you who are still convinced that this is some kind of global conspiracy to numb people into a sense of terror and passivity, I have only one thing to say: GET A GRIP!  I will be very relieved if after all of the precautionary measures we have taken that this virus turns out to be wildly overblown.  If I look like I have egg on my face next year for being such a Chicken Little, I can live with that.   (There’s still no reason to panic but you should follow the instructions of your local public health officials even if they sound restrictive.)   But it it turns out that some of you out there didn’t vaccinate your kids because you listened to the ignorant nutcases who sent you email and as a result, a lot more people got sicker than they should have, I will be very angry.

And I have your email addresses.

For more information:

The Centers for Disease Control

The World Health Organization

She’s a supergeek, supergeek, she’s supergeeky (Check this for podcasts and youtube videos describing the 1918 Influenza and how the flu virus behaves in general.  Choose your comfort level of science.)

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75 Responses

  1. And I have your email addresses.


  2. We may end up being victims of our own success.

    There aren’t many people left who remember when epidemics and pandemics were regular occurrences. People don’t take the flu seriously anymore.

    The diseases they worry about (AIDS, cancer) you can’t get a shot for (yet)

  3. Global conspiracy?

    • Oh goody, can’t get the vaccine, per Mayo, due to new drugs I’m on (that are really working).

      So any suggestions on how to get someone to slide the groceries under my door?

  4. Anyone who has had Guillan-Barre syndrome myst take any immunization with caution. It’s an individual decision, and your physician should explain the risk/benefit ratio to you. The last set of swine flu immunizations appeared to cause cardiomyopathy in a tiny (<1%) percentage. Sadly, one was my best friend's father.

  5. Tuesday is “Letter to the Editor Day” for my loathsome local paper, and sure enough, one of the letters was from a fellow who was convinced that the H1N1 virus is a ruse, made up by the Obama administration to distract us from some unspecified evil or other.

    Today’s headline: A 5-year-old girl in town dies from H1N1. She was sick for two days.

    Riverdaughter, I hope I’m wrong, but I suspect that, by the time this is over, everyone is going to be taking it seriously.

  6. I am seriously conflicted about the H1N1 vaccine. My husband is in a high-risk group and his doctor gave him the seasonal flu vaccine, but his doctor is refusing to give any H1N1 vaccines. The doctor believes the vaccine has not been adequately tested and has a high incidence of side effects. My daughter is pregnant, yet her obstetrician has not yet given her any flu shots. He told her he hadn’t decided if the benefits outweigh the risks yet. I’m not a conspiracy nut case, but I am a member of the group who will not be getting the H1N1 vaccine–because my doctor doesn’t believe it is safe, not because I read some crazy email.

    • Your doctor is overreacting. Get the H1n1 vaccine if offered. I just read an update on the vaccine yesterday. It is as safe as a seasonal flu vaccine. It has been tested about as much as a seasonal flu vaccine. This safety shit has got to stop. The virus is MUCH mire likely to kill you than the vaccine.
      Oh, and if we start to hear reports of cytokine storms, we’re all screwed.

      • What are cytokine storms? Yikes!

        • I think they’re when your immune response goes crazy.

        • An exaggerated antigen-antibody response in which your body attacks itself. Thast’s what made the Spanish Flu so deadly.

      • I have an auto-immune disease and my doctor tells me I should get any flu vaccine. So I guess I’m SOL. What’s the youngest a child can get the vaccine? I worry about my grandkids. The youngest is only 14 months which IIRC puts him in the high risk group.

        • typo. meant to say: should NOT get any flu vaccines.

          • gxm17 – As I said below, this is a tough one for people like us. Mayo has always advised me to definitely get the regular flu vaccine. I did for 9 years, missed it last year and didn’t have any problems. However, when it gets cold here, I’m not out much.

            I’m certainly not trying to change your mind, I just wanted to bring up the verbal info from Mayo Rheumatology as of this am.

            Have you ever gotten the flu since your system went wonky? Strangely I’ve never had it decades, even with the RA and no shots.

          • Hi G-cat, thanks for the info. I have Hashmito’s disease and Fibromyalgia. I get sick every year and it takes me triple the time to get over it than it takes my husband. It’s like a domino effect and it can take over a month to get well. I just started up with a new doctor for the Fibro so I’ll check with her and see what she says.

          • It gets really embarassing when I list my diseases, but both of those are on my list and have been for years.

            I wish you much luck with your new doc and hope she understands fibro. There is hope tho, mine was diagnosed in ’93 on all tender points, but by the time I went thru Mayo’s Fibro program in 2002 (?) I was down to 1 point. Maybe my immune system just finally spit it out!

          • I was so ashamed of the Fibro that I didn’t tell anyone after being diagnosed. It took years before I admitted it to my family and decided to get serious about treatment. It’s good to hear a success story G-cat. Thanks for sharing yours.

      • RD: Any thoughts on the the TNF alpha inhibitors, such as Humira and this vaccine re: cytokines? I’m also on Arava and steroids. This is the giant hammer it’s taken to get my CRP down, after running at 30.0 to 40.0 for 9 years to 1.0 after one month of treatment.

        This is a hard one for anyone with a mangled immune system.

        • Steroids and immunosuppressants will likely calm a cytokine storm but that just means that the virus will get stronger hold on your body. I read somewhere that ace inhibitors (or was it angiotensin II inhibitors? I can’t remember) may be able to stop a cytokine storm. I have no idea if this is true or not. Not sure what the mechanism would be.
          Better to just not get infected in the first place.

      • Is the nasal spray safe? Our school district will be offering the spray vaccines free of charge to all students. I was all for letting my youngest son and two grandsons get it–then I start hearing doctors say they think the vaccine is too dangerous. I really don’t know what to do. A local girl, 12 years old, no underlying health issues, played a soccer game on Thurs. afternoon. She got sick Thurs. night after the game, her parents got her to the Dr. first thing Fri. morning, she was admitted to the hospital on Sat., her brain started swelling Sun. afternoon and she was declared brain-dead on Mon. I’m scared to let them get the vaccine and I’m scared not to get them vaccinated.

        • omg that is so scary. That almost sounds like meningitis.

          what part of the country are you in (east coast, west coast, somewhere in the middle?)

          • We’re in south Texas–Corpus Christi. We have hundreds of flu cases here, 99% are H1n1, according to our health dept. We’ve had about 10 deaths, but only 2 were otherwise healthy individuals. Almost all cases are children or health care workers. It’s very scary because the little girl’s father is the Commander of the local Coast Guard, so they had great insurance and access to the best medical care available. She was tested and preliminary results were positive for H1N1.

        • There was a case in Dallas just a couple of days ago that matches this scenario pretty well. An 8th grader got sick and 2 or 3 days later was dead. Unbelievable. The girl was very healthy until then. I am afraid that the vaccine is way to late for the people in our neck of the woods.

        • stxabuela, I’m scared to let them get the vaccine and I’m scared not to get them vaccinated.

          Don’t be scared to get them vaccinated. Don’t. Really. Do not. The girl’s reaction does sound like meningitis. If it was due to H1N1, it was an idiosyncratic reaction.

          By now, millions of people have either caught the virus or had the vaccine. Those are large enough sample sizes to say for sure that getting the vaccine is WAY better than the virus!

          • Also, yes, the nasal spray is safe. It’s not fundamentally different from the injection. It’s just a different route to the blood stream.

        • I used to work for the company that makes FluMist. I took it one year for a seasonal flu. Thar sucker has been clinically proven safe and effective by the Fda for school age children. When it was first approved for seasonal flu 6 years ago, the Fda were super anal about its safety. I would take it if offered. It is a live attenuated virus and elicits a strong immune response. The live aspect of it shouldn’t alarm you. The original Salk polio vaccine was live attenuated.
          Get her vaccinated, the sooner the better. If we see cytokine storms, people between the ages of 15-50 are the most vulnerable.

        • you are lucky your school district is offering the vaccine to the kids… my school is in a very low income area and the shots are 30 bucks a pop… lotta families with 4 or 5 kids and not nearly enough money to fund all the swine flu shots…

          I’m very worried about our children.

    • They are supposed to offer pregnant women the Swine Flu (that’s where it came from – factory farmed pigs) in it’s traditional format which I would definitely get. It is the new vaccine that is experimental and I am opting not to get. Ask your daughter to ask her dr to give her the traditional vaccine and make sure to double check it before it is injected. I live in Canada so it may be different in the US.

      • The “experimental” vaccine is grown in a different way. Traditional uses eggs as incubators and takes a long time. “Experimental” has been around for years and uses bacteria to grow the necessary viral bits. The viral bits, the part your body sees, are basically the same.

        It’s the same general process that is used to make insulin for diabetics, hormone replacement therapy, erythropoietin for kidney patients, and on through hundreds of other drugs.

        It’s “experimental” only as a way of making vaccines.

  7. I just found this on cytokine storms-are they likely to work or not?

    Cytokine storms associated with sepsis and ARDS have been treated by forcing progression of the inflammatory process into its recovery phase. Some of the most effective approaches use recognizable anti-inflammatory compounds: aspirin, omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) and curcumin (turmeric).


    • Are they likely to work? Sure. Are they likely to work enough when there’s something as major as a cytokine storm going on? No.

      It’s like running up to a house fire with a teacup full of water.

      If you or someone you know develops high fever (Over a 101 or so), and any other symptoms that seem way beyond normal, call a doctor and get to the hospital. Do not mess about taking two aspirin and seeing whether you’re still alive to call someone in the morning. (I probably shouldn’t try to be funny. I’m serious.)

  8. yikes…………………………….

  9. Cytokine storms are when the body’s immune system reacts so harshly to the invading virus that it kills everything, including the host. During the 1918 flu, this reaction happened mostly in young, healthy people, and is the reason so many of them died.

    As for the vaccine and who should or should not take it, well, that may be a moot point. For one thing, the vaccine isn’t available yet (though the news reports keep saying “any day now!”) and if and when it gets here, there won’t be much available for months. My pharmacist told me that he hasn’t been told how it’s going to be distributed and is assuming that the states or the feds will handle this. I believe I read that certain populations will get first jabs (though that list has changed from time to time, from first responders to children to all military personnel).

  10. Yesterday, my daughter and I attended the funeral for a 14 year old girl who died from H1N1. She was healthy and not in a “risk” group so her doctor decided not to give her Tamiflu. She died two days later. A beautiful, loving child. Her last words in her hospital bed before she was given medication to put her out, according to the minister was “Mommy, how are we going to pay for all of this?”

    Her parents are not poor, and it hurts my heart that she was aware of and worried about the cost of care.

    • That has brought tears to my eyes.

    • I also know someone who’s brother in law–age 57–in excellent health just died from it. The family is in shock.

    • That is so heartbreaking. And even sadder that this girl was worried about the burden her death would be on her family’s finances. This is what happens when we live in a country that doesn’t provide the best affordable medical care to every citizen.

      The $50 million Chicago spent on the failed Olympic bid could’ve went to providing a few more children, pregnant women, and older adults a flu shot or H1N1 vaccine shot. The cost of flying Oprah, Michelle, and Barack to Denmark alone could’ve went towards a health center for the poor in Chicago or feeding a few families for the upcoming holidays. The world is so cruel and unfair. 😦

  11. Yesterday I passed by the library and they had a sign saying something like “the CDC says if you don’t feel well – fever, cough, runny nose, etc — please don’t enter the library.”
    I was like, woah.
    And the school has been sending home a lot ofhealth reminders to keep sick kids at home.

    My dr definitely encourages it — I called her a few days ago about the flu vaccine and she said call next week when the H1N1 shots come in too.

    (personal health stuff, feel free to skip):
    I am worried about the vaccine too though. I think my immune system can be wacky. I had a bad case of serum sickness 2 weeks after my 1st ever bee sting, for which I had to go on 10 days of prednisone. The allergist refused to believe was possible until they did a rast test. So now I am doing bee venom shots weekly, and last week I got a fever a day after the shot dose went up. The nurse thinks it’s coincidence. I ma hoping I don’t get a fever again after the next shot.
    So basically I am wondering if my immune system is already feeling “pressured” at the moment; can it handle a flu shot right now.

    • votermom, I hear you. Consider me your sister in the Wacky Immune System order. I never know what the heck my immune response will be.

      • gxm17, I saw your post upthread — it must be really hard to deal with those health issues. ((hugs))

        I’m leaning towards taking it bec we are going to disney(!!!) this dec. Which has got to be the meeting spot of all the viruses in the world, what will all the tourists.
        I get bee shots on Tuesdays … maybe if I get the flu shot on a Friday, and make sure I am taking allergy meds that whole week. *fingers crossed*

        • Thanks votermom. I needed a hug!

          Your plan makes sense to me but I’d say to check with your allergy doc and see what she recommends. Let me know how you do.

  12. Why aren’t these deaths from the flu being reported? The Mexican outbreak was all over the news. Are they trying to prevent a panic?

    • The deaths are being reported, locally. It’s still really early. Remember that the regular old seasonal flu kills thousands every year; the difference this time is that it’s healthy young people, not the very old and very weak as usual.

      As for the Mexican outbreak, it’s happening again…


      …and yes, they’re trying to avoid a panic.

    • MN is on the list as widespread out breaks. I may have to start watching the local news again. They were reporting cases but no deaths yet.

    • I think the reports are getting fewer because it’s old news. (“Swine flu deaths? Yawn. Been there, done that. How very way-back-in-March of you.”)

  13. Riverdaughter,
    Should healthy adults get the pneumonia vaccination also? Thanks. (Will share your column on my Facebook page.)

    • (Not RD here, but until she gets back, the standard answer to that would be it depends on how much of a threat viral pneumonia is where you live. The medical professionals in your area would be the experts on that. Also your state’s public health info web site.)

  14. RD you are obviously a brilliant scientist and very knowledgeable on this subject. Just a couple of questions that I think are pertinent to the discussion:

    1. What is the mortality rate of people infected with this virus in relation to just the typical flu? Last I heard that the Swine Flu was more benign than the regular flu. The only difference being who dies from the flu. Has this changed?

    2. What is the infection rate if you get the vaccination? Just how effective is the vaccination?

    3. I live in NE Texas. People are already dying of the swine flu here. If it takes 21 days to become fully inoculated then how is that going to help me and mine?

    • (Again, not RD. Just standing in 🙂 )

      The mortality rate between the two flu’s is comparable. Swine flu appears to be a good bit more contagious, but severity and lethality are comparable. That does NOT mean that any specific individual will react the same way. Individual reaction to swine flu may be anything from carrier to emergency room.

      The vaccination, so far, is about as effective as regular flu vaccines. I.e. pretty damn good. Not 100%. Definitely worth getting.

      As to your third point: as soon as you get vaccinated, your body starts learning that cyrillic alphabet. (Great analogy!) The vaccine will reduce the severity of reaction even if it hasn’t fully taken hold yet. Then, after 21 days, you’re likely to be completely immune. The flu is only going to get more common for the next few months. Why would you say, “Oh, what’s the use?” when “all” the vaccine does is make you immune during the worst period? ??

    • {{snort!}} I am not a brilliant scientist. But keep telling yourself that if it helps. 🙂
      1.) I’m not sure what the mortality rate is. In general for seasonal flu, it’s not that much. Even really bad pandemics are only in the single digit percentile range. I ran across the number online somewhere and had a “huh. that doesn’t look so bad” But when we talk about mortality, that doesn’t count the people who got sick and then recovered. Even a pandemic with a 4.5% mortality rate means a health care system that is overwhelmed and near the breaking point.
      2.) If you get the vaccine and develop antibodies to the virus, your risk of infection and getting sick is greatly reduced. I will try to find out that information for you. If you have a full immune response as in 21 days after infection, you’re chances of getting sick are minute.
      3.) It won’t. That’s why it’s really important for people to excerise good flu hygiene and to quarantine themselves once they get the flu so they don’t spread it. I think you have to stay fever free for 7 days. At work, we have to be out for a week and get a doctor’s note saying we can come back. Our company puts us on temporary disability. We will have to take our laptops home every night and login from home in case of a health emergency. You can get a prescription for tamilflu or relenza, which are antivirals, but I have heard of antiviral resistance building, probably due to an overreliance on these drugs. Viruses have survived so long by mutating and they will mutate around antivirals as well.
      So, yeah, the sooner we get the vaccine out there, the better.

  15. thanks RD for “trying” to bring logic back to the Internets.

    My left arm is ready for the shot. Never had a flu shot before but this one i am getting.

  16. Last weekend, my best friend and I both received our seasonal flu shots. I’ve been getting the flu shot every year for the past 10 years with no problems. Back in the 1970s I received a flu shot and ended up having the worst case of flu I’ve ever had–presumably from the shot. But vaccines have come a long way since then.

    Anyway, since I don’t have insurance, I went to the local pharmacy for my shot–$5.00 cheaper than the clinic. My best friend, however, who has Medicare, chose to receive his shot from the clinic. While there, we spoke to the nurse about the swine flu issue. She basically confirmed everything RD is saying, mainly, that this one is serious and if you can get the H1N1 vaccine, do so. Unfortunately, there’s no word yet when the vaccine will be available here or who will receive the doses. Given my age and regular sinus problems, I just hope it’s available to more than public health workers and schoolchildren.

  17. ‘Am rereading and recommend “The Great Influenza – the Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History” by John M. Barry (2004). It is also a history of medicine in the US.

    This occurred right after the US entered WWI, which contributed to its spread worldwide.

    Although it stretched over 2 years, “more than half of those deaths occurred…from mid-September to early December 1918. Influenza killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.” (p. 5 Prologue)

    • Except AIDS has apparently been with us since around the Civil War period. No telling how many people that particular virus has really killed. Thankfully, it doesn’t spread like the flu or it would wipe out pretty much the entire planet.

      And there are extenuating circumstances that made the 1918 pandemic much more problematic than it should have been. Wasn’t the global temperatures really down that year due to a huge volcano eruption? Food was scarce. War was going on. People were displaced and more concentrated than usual. It was a perfect storm of death. Hopefully, nothing like that will ever happen again.

  18. ‘Am rereading and recommend “The Great Influenza – the Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History” by John M. Barry (2004). It is also a history of medicine in the US.

    This occurred right after the US entered WWI, which contributed to its spread worldwide.

    Although it stretched over 2 years, “more than half of those deaths occurred…from mid-September to early December 1918. Influenza (H1N1) killed more people in a year than the Black Death of the Middle Ages killed in a century; it killed more people in twenty-four weeks than AIDS has killed in twenty-four years.” (p. 5 Prologue)

  19. This issue was raised a little earlier in the thread, and I just thought I would mention that my sister’s neurologist suggested that she not get the H1N1 shot because she has an auto immune disease (MS). MS attacks the myelin in the central nervous system, and apparently her doctor believes she would be at risk for Guillain Barre, which attacks the myelin in the peripheral nervous system. Her doctor believes that due to her existing auto immune disease, she and her immediate family members should avoid the H1N1 vaccine.

    I’m not suggesting that anyone else avoid the vaccine, but just wanted to point out that some people may be advised not to take the H1N1 shot (and I note Riverdaugher specifically mentioned Guillain Barre in her post, my sister’s situation is slightly different though because she has a different demyelinating disorder). Obviously, my sister’s experience is limited to her medical history and the beliefs of her neurologist. It is possible that not all doctors would make the same call. In fact, I know of parents who have gotten different responses from the same pediatric office in our area, which is a pretty good sized practice with 5 or more pediatricians, so perhaps a little more education and information sharing is needed among medical personnel before the vaccine is released for the public.

    • Sam, My sister has MS and has recently learned some very exciting news. I don’t want to high jack this thread but, if you (or anyone) are interested please send me an email at katiebird@gmail.com or friend me on facebook (Catharine Hendricks) and I’ll send you information and links

  20. I am really torn about this – I got the shot with the last swine flu go round because my younger son was an infant and I honestly was guilted into it by friends and family – I almost died – and still have an ongoing issue because of it.

    I’ve also heard the current H1N1 shot is not recommended for those over 65. 😕

    • “Not recommended” isn’t exactly right. “Not as necessary as for younger age groups” would be more precise.

      And, as commenters already mentioned upthread, vaccines now are very different from what they were in the 1970s.

  21. Great post, RD! None of this can be said enough.

    As myiq says upthread, people have forgotten what the diseases themselves were like. Any risk from the vaccines is like the wake of a rowboat compared to the wake of a whole aircraft carrier battle group.

    And yes, that’s true even on an individual level, barring complicating medical conditions. If you’re one of the tiny minority who get ill from the vaccine, you’ll still be a lot less ill than from H1N1 itself. If you’re one of the infinitesimally tiny minority who gets serious effects, you’ll be watching for them, able to react immediately, the doctors will know what the cause is, and there are effective treatments to tamp down the immune reaction.

    If you have that bad a reaction to the vaccine, your reaction to the virus itself would be even more over the top. But without the advantage of knowing beforehand what the trigger was and what to do about it.

    As Riverdaughter says: GET VACCINATED.

    • It’s like people who say they don’t wear seatbelts because they don’t want to be trapped in a burning car.

      The fire isn’t a problem if you don’t survive the crash.

    • Quixote, you’re doing a great job on this.

  22. Got the seasonal shot last Thurs. and then yesterday the momster got hers and we both got our pneumonia shots.

    I took the swine flu “gun” injection in 76 or whenever it was and read an article in Sci. Amer. that stated I should have some antibodies or whatever the goodies are called, in my system so not too worried about myself. I’m not sure where the momster falls in the queues for the H1N1 vaccine. She’s elderly, heart conditions and such but they are not making many announcements about the vaccine for that one other than the fact that it’s not here yet and although it should be free some clincs/docs may charge an “administrative fee” for giving it. Yeah, rite, okay, how much?

  23. Essay in the NY Times:

    Pregnancy Is No Time to Refuse a Flu Shot

    Published: September 28, 2009 […]

    Anne Drapkin Lyerly is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Duke, Margaret Olivia Little is director of the Georgetown Kennedy Institute for Ethics, and Ruth R. Faden is director of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

  24. Riverdaughter speaks. I obey.

  25. Here’s the thing that disturbs me: I work for my local school district. We send sick kids with fevers and flu symptoms home, and request that they be taken to the doctor to check for H1N1; the doctors tell families that they AREN’T EVEN CHECKING FOR IT ANYMORE BECAUSE IT IS SO COMMON. Where does that leave us?

    • I’d say you’re doing exactly the right thing. Sick kids need to be *not* in school! They don’t actually need a doctor for anything unless their symptoms are worse than what you’d expect from flu (seasonal or “special”). But the school system probably needs to say that to CYA. You know how it is.

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