Flu Bug Blog

H1N1: The Vaccine & The National Emergency

Lots of things have been happening since last week not the least of which is the Yankees winning the pennant.  Quel dommage!


Nevertheless, we all have to move on.  Sigh…

So, in the world of H1N1, what has been particularly relevant to UT is the arrival and distribution of the vaccine on both campuses as well as an increase in ILI cases on campus and in the region.   That’s not unexpected.  Ms. Krystalyn Weaver has written an excellent piece not only about her personal feelings about the vaccine and her decision to get it, but she has also posted sites where the H1N1 vaccine will be given.  Remember, the vaccine is free here.

Ms. Weaver is right that the amount of the vaccine is not what was hoped for.  There are a number of reasons for that and this NY Times link presents the whys and wherefores (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/26/health/26flu.html?_r=1&th&emc=th).  Nothing really nefarious.  Even D-Day had its glitches.

However, whether or not you choose to receive the vaccine, don’t forget that this is not the time to let down your guard.  Especially now.  Maintain your own respiratory/hand hygiene and all those social distancing measures that we’ve been promulgating.  Eat well, exercise, and rest appropriately.  And should you come down with the “flu,” remember that for the vast majority of cases, the disease remains relatively benign.  Resting at home, drinking plenty of fluids, taking ibuprofen will be all that’s needed for most of us.  Remember to contact your healthcare provider anyway, especially if you’re in a high-risk category.  Meanwhile, keep in mind the following CDC advice (http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/guidance_homecare.htm):

“…Get medical care right away if you or the sick person you are attending:

  • has difficulty breathing or chest pain
  • has purple or blue discoloration of the lips
  • is vomiting and unable to keep liquids down
  • has signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing, absence of urination, or in infants, a lack of tears when they cry
  • has seizures (for example, uncontrolled convulsions)
  • is less responsive than normal or becomes confused…”

Next up is President Obama declaring a national emergency (http://edition.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/10/24/h1n1.obama/index.html).  Oh my God!  “National emergency!”  Is it time to get in the old pontoon and hide out in some glacial fjord on the Greenlandic coast?  Not at all.  This declaration isn’t an admission that the system is falling apart or that the disease has suddenly shifted into a more lethal state.  What he’s done is proactively to allow the hospitals to initiate their own disaster protocols as efficiently and expeditiously as possible without incurring unnecessary financial or legal hardships.  This next link looks at this topic more intensely (http://www.flu.gov/professional/federal/h1n1emergency10242009.html).

All patients will still be cared for.  We are not at a point of the greatest good for the greatest number and there is no indication that we will ever get to that point, at least as far as H1N1 is concerned.

Meanwhile, here is what the latest US Flu Map looks like.  Note how its grayish hue has spread farther than the previous map:


Finally, this is a series of statements, hopefully reassuring, from the CDC as of October 23.  It tries to resolve the question about the ingredients contained in the vaccine.  It also attempts to put Guillain-Barre’ syndrome (GBS) in perspective:

Key Points – 2009 H1N1 & Seasonal Influenza – Oct 23

– None of the seasonal or 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines currently licensed and distributed by the U.S. government contains adjuvants. This means that none of these influenza vaccines contains squalene or aluminum.

– The currently licensed seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines do not contain latex.  If healthcare providers do not use the vaccine administration products provided by the vaccine manufacturers which do not contain latex, there may be a risk of latex allergy.

– Each year, approximately 6,000 to 9,100 people in the United States get GBS whether or not they receive a vaccination. This means that about 140 people get GBS every week.�
During the 2009-2010 influenza season, CDC and FDA will be closely monitoring reports of serious problems following the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines and the regular seasonal influenza vaccines including GBS.

– Since GBS is a serious disorder that people do get every year, CDC has developed several GBS surveillance systems. These are tracking systems to identify whether some GBS cases are linked to influenza vaccinations. �
These surveillance systems include some existing vaccination safety systems, such as the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), and new systems, such as the CDC Emerging Infections Program and a partnership with the American Academy of Neurology, which includes doctors (neurologists) who are most likely to see persons with GBS. None of these systems existed in 1976.
Through these systems, CDC and FDA will be able to find any possible link between GBS and seasonal or 2009 H1N1 flu vaccines early in the vaccination campaign if it occurs and take appropriate action.”

That’s about it for now and know that there are a lot of people here on campus, expert in who they are and what they do, constantly assessing and re-assessing the situation and responding to the events as they develop for the betterment of each of us and the University.  It sounds hokey, but it’s true.

2 Responses to “H1N1: The Vaccine & The National Emergency”

  1. Kathleen Walsh Says:

    Dr. Rega, thanks for all your information. What is the advice for those of us with children who have chronic asthma and are also allergic to eggs?

  2. Ernest Dubrul Says:

    This column just about says it right to me.


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About Dr. Paul Rega

Paul Rega is a board-certified physician in Emergency Medicine and is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health & Disease Prevention and the Department of Emergency Medicine. A passion in Disaster Medicine has resulted, over the years, in multiple deployments, research and education both nationally and internationally. This has branched out into developing strategies associated with counter-terrorism and pandemics. Currently, Paul is assisting with H1N1 preparedness and response within UT and into the region.




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