Stories about: H1N1 vaccine

Top pediatric health stories of 2009

McCarthyClaire_dsc0435From swine flu to obesity to dangerous plastics, many issues that affect children’s health garnered media attention in the year 2009. Here’s a rundown of the some of the biggest and most important stories:

H1N1

This is the story that caught the most attention—for good reason. Not only is the H1N1 influenza virus very contagious, it appears to particularly affect young people. H1N1 caused more pediatric hospitalizations and deaths than we usually see with the seasonal influenza virus, which is very scary for parents (and pediatricians!). The virus led to countless school closings—sometimes to control the spread, and sometimes because there weren’t enough teachers left to teach!

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Canada delays seasonal-flu vaccine program. Should we be worried?

stockphotopro_998566RYH_18_07_01_0082_jpAn unpublished, unverified Canadian research study, which suggests that people who got flu shots last season are twice as likely to contract swine flu, prompted 12 out of 13 Canadian provinces to hastily suspend their seasonal-flu vaccination programs earlier this week.

In contrast to the simultaneous H1N1 and seasonal-flu vaccination programs being conducted by the U.S. and many other countries around the world, Canada’s provincial governments have decided to put off their seasonal-flu vaccination program until after the H1N1 inoculations are completed, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday. The vaccine suspensions however, do not apply to seniors above the age of 65, since they are more prone to catching seasonal flu.

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Probing life-threatening flu

stockphotopro_16374kcu_illustration_of_aLong before last summer’s H1N1 epidemic, Adrienne Randolph, MD, MSc, of Children’s Division of Critical Care Medicine, was concerned about hospitalizations and deaths in children with influenza. “Some children were quickly overwhelmed, and many died despite centers doing everything to save them,” she says. “It was getting more and more worrisome.” (Read Dr. Randolph’s blog post about why you should get your child vaccinated this flu season.)

Why were otherwise healthy school-aged children –- without known risk factors like asthma — developing deep pneumonias, requiring ventilators and heart-lung bypass and succumbing to serious co-infections with bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus? With funding from the CDC, Randolph and her colleagues in pediatric ICUs across the country, part of the Pediatric Acute Lung Injury and Sepsis Investigators Network that she chairs, are trying to understand what’s going on in these critically ill flu patients. “Some people may have defects in their immune system that allow influenza to go rampant,” Randolph says.

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True or false? Five things you need to know about H1N1

MccarthyClaire1114081. Pregnant women should be vaccinated for flu.

True. The physical effects of pregnancy put women at risk for serious complications of flu, and studies have found no harmful effects on the fetus associated with flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control says women who are at any stage of pregnancy during flu season should be immunized. This is true for both the seasonal and H1N1 flu.

2. My usual yearly flu shot will also prevent the H1N1 (swine flu).

False. The seasonal flu vaccine, the one we usually get every fall, is not effective against the specific virus that causes the H1N1 infection. A separate vaccine is being made this year, and it should be available mid-October. People in high-risk groups because they have serious chronic illness, adults and children with asthma, children 6 months to 18 years and pregnant women are STRONGLY encouraged to be vaccinated for seasonal flu and H1N1.

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