If you are a child_
- Children have not shown any immunity to this new strain of flu.
- Kids are super spreaders of flu, with schools being petri dishes for spread.
- Children should wash hands frequently for at least 30 seconds with soap and water, use hand sanitizers, and sneeze or cough into their sleeve.
- Children who have fatigue, fever, sore throat, nausea, or muscle aches, should STAY HOME and the family pediatrician should be consulted.
- Rapid flu tests are about 60% sensitive for H1N1 swine flu, and a presumptive diagnosis can be made by a child's doctor, based on symptoms.
- Kids with the flu should stay home for at least two days after symptoms resolve.
- The H1N1 swine flu vaccine will be available beginning in late October. ALL children should take it, especially those with chronic illnesses. It will likely be offered in schools. It is not clear yet whether children will require one or two shots.
- The use of Tamiflu (anti-viral) in children is somewhat controversial; recent studies from the UK appear to show that it isn't well tolerated or effective, though previous studies have shown that it is safe, shortens the course of illness, and can also prevent spread (80-95%) if given to close contacts. This was the experience of several summer camps in Maine this summer, where Tamiflu was also well tolerated.
- Secondary bacterial infections are common, and should be treated promptly with antibiotics.
If you are an adult:
- Especially at risk are adults with chronic illnesses such as COPD, Crohns Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, HIV, cancer, etc. These patients should be especially careful, take Tamiflu early for flu symptoms, be on the lookout for secondary infections including bronchitis, pneumonia, sinus and ear infections.
- The H1N1 vaccine should be given to these groups as soon as available, as well as pregnant women (currently in clinical trials), health care workers, and close contacts of those with chronic conditions.
- New studies just published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that the new vaccine works in 7-10 days, is well tolerated, and provides immunity with a single dose.
- Elderly patients appear to have partial immunity to this H1N1 swine flu strain, if born before 1957, probably because of exposure to a related virus when they were younger, but should still be considered for this vaccine, especially if they have chronic medical conditions.
- Those who had H1N1 swine flu in the Spring or Summer are likely immune. There may be a blood test available to test this.
Dr. Marc Siegel is an internist and associate professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine. He is a FOX News medical contributor and writes a health column for the LA Times, where he examines TV and movies for medical accuracy. Dr. Siegel's new Ebook: Swine Flu; the New Pandemic, will be published in early October. Dr. Siegel is also the author of "False Alarm: The Truth About the Epidemic of Fear"and "Bird Flu: Everything You Need to Know About the Next Pandemic."Read more at www.doctorsiegel.com