Last year, the H1N1 flu outbreak was considered a pandemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that between 43 and 89 million cases occurred in the U.S. (the number could fall into such a range because lots of people had it and never knew). 274,000 children and adults were hospitalized, and 12,470 died. It came on strong, early, and it hit certain populations really hard.
But according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, H1N1 is not any more severe than the regular old seasonal flu. It was so devastating because it came on before the regular flu season and couldn’t be included in the seasonal vaccine, and it disproportionately hit children and young adults. But the strain wasn’t more powerful or virulent than others.
What does that mean about the recommendations for this year’s vaccine? In short, get it.
This year the CDC has made its strongest recommendations ever, urging all people over the age of six months to get the flu shot. We’re supposed to get in and get it early. Why, if we don’t have the fear of an extra-lethal H1N1 outbreak like we did this time last year?
Because the flu does cause major complications and puts many people at risk (remember the CDC’s hospitalization and death statistics). Even if you’re not in one of the most vulnerable populations, the idea in the public health community is for us to up our “herd immunity.” In other words, the more people vaccinated, the greater the protection for those at risk.
I got the seasonal flu vaccine for my son last year, but not the additional swine flu vaccine. This year, H1N1 is included in the regular shot, so he’ll be inoculated. Of course it’s not a guaruntee, but in my estimation, the benefits outweigh the risks.
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