Contagious Disease Public Health

H1N1: Do I have it? Do I need a vaccine?

Two weeks ago, the U.S. government released its H1N1 vaccine to the public.  Many people have had a number of questions about whether or not they should get the vaccine.  The CDC website has a list of Key Facts and a Q&A section that is helpful.  

There are five major groups who should have priority of getting the vaccine:

  • pregnant women,
  • people who live with or provide care for infants younger than 6 months (e.g., parents, siblings, and day care providers),
  • health care and emergency medical services personnel,
  • people 6 months through 24 years of age, and,
  • people 25 years through 64 years of age who have certain medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications.

There are a number of people who should NOT get the vaccine.

  • People who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.
  • People who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination.
  • People who developed Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) within 6 weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously.
  • Children younger than 6 months of age (influenza vaccine is not approved for this age group), and
  • People who have a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever (they should wait until they recover to get vaccinated.)

The H1N1 vaccine is prepared using the same method as used for the seasonal flu.  However, because the H1N1 vaccine was developed too late, it could not be added to the seasonal flu vaccine.  Thus there are two flu shots available now, one for the seasonal flu and one for H1N1. 

If you think you have the H1N1 illness, you can use this self assessment tool to verify whether or not you should see a doctor.

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