Dear Family and Friends,
I hope this message finds you all well. I have decided to write this to help get factual information about the H1N1 influenza strain and its vaccine to you all to help you make informed decisions about what is best for you and your family. There has been a large amount of misinformation spread by both traditional media sources and the internet. When this outbreak first started in Mexico there were numbers coming out of Mexico that caused much panic in the US and the world. After awhile it was determined that these numbers were inaccurate and we may never know how many cases and deaths there actually were, the numbers reported were higher than they are in reality. When the virus spread to the US panic spread even quicker that the virus itself, newscasters were referring to this strain as if it were going to kill us all. After awhile it became pretty apparent that this strain is not nearly as bad as they hyped it up to be.
Current data show that this strain is highly infective but it tends to produce a more mild and shorter infection in many patients. This does not mean that this virus is "safe" and something to forget about, it can still cause complications and death just like any strain of influenza, especially in children and pregnant women. There is also the possibility that it will mutate or recombine with other strains of influenza that can cause it to become a dangerous hybrid strain. Influenza can be a very unpredictable virus and so people should always take precautions to avoid getting it and spreading it if they do get it. Frequent hand washing is quite possibly the best way to avoid contraction and spreading of influenza and other infectious diseases. When washing your hands use warm water and soap that does not contain anti-microbials (studies have shown they can cause more harm than good), make sure to get every part of the hand, people often forget between the fingers, the top of the hand (the part many wipe their nose with) and under the fingernails. Proper hand washing takes at least 20 seconds which is about how long it takes to sing "happy birthday". Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been found effective in killing influenza viruses and can be used if there is no access to a sink and soap, keep in mind that if your hands are dirty/grimy that the hand sanitizers are less effective. Avoid touching your face if you are out in public and have not washed your hands. Avoid coming into contact with infected people if possible. If you are infected the best thing you can do is stay home until you are no longer symptomatic. If you must leave your home make sure to wash your hands frequently, cough and/or sneeze into a clean tissue (or your sleeve if you do not have a tissue) and then discard it and wash your hands.
And now onto vaccination. It is recommended that everyone get a seasonal flu vaccine annually, there are select groups of people that should not get this vaccine, mainly those who are allergic to eggs as the vaccine is produced in chicken eggs. You most likely know if you are in this group, if you have any question about it ask your doctor to make sure. There is a vaccine against the H1N1 strain being produced and tested right now, it is made in the same way as the seasonal vaccine and thus far all safety testing shows it is no different than the regular vaccine in terms of safety, as was expected. Some of you may have heard of the 1976 swine flu vaccine issues, please do not believe the propaganda comparing that vaccine to the current one, trust me when I tell you that immunology and vaccine development has changed drastically in the past 33 years. No vaccine is completely without risk but the influenza vaccine has a very low risk and most of the side effects are mild and short lived, especially when compared to the symptoms and risks that the influenza virus poses. When it is made available to me I plan to get the H1N1 vaccine and I want my six year old niece and the rest of my loved ones to get it as well. I have already gotten my seasonal flu vaccine and recommend anyone who has not gotten it to get it as soon as possible, it takes time for it to kick in. Getting vaccinated does not guarantee you will not get the flu as there are many strains of influenza and they can only fit three into the one vaccine and it does not work against other viruses and bacteria that could cause an upper respiratory infection but as the three strains they choose are the most prevalent and/or dangerous strains it is definitely worthwhile to get the vaccine. Currently H1N1 is the most prevalent strain of influenza in the US but it is very early in the flu season, which normally peaks further into winter, and the seasonal strains could follow behind or coexist with the H1N1 strain as the season progresses. Flu season can be hard to predict but I believe that it is better safe than sorry and get vaccinated yearly.
For more information refer to the following links:
H1N1 Vaccine Safety Information: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/vaccination/vaccine_safety_qa.htm?s_cid=tw_flu45
Cool Public Service Announcement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_gwUdmPl0bU
CDC's H1N1 Site: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
Collaborative US Government Site: www.flu.gov
I hope that I have helped clear up any confusion any of you may have had, feel free to link this to anyone you feel might benefit from this information. Remember that the worst thing one can do is panic in these situations, it can only hurt you as stress can lower the immune system. Knowing the risks so you can make informed decisions with confidence is the best thing you can do for yourself and your family. Feel free to ask if you have any questions about this topic or if something I wrote was confusing in any way, I will do my best to answer your question(s) or clarify points I may not have fully explained.
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