Facebook Pixel

What Cancer Patients Should Know About the 2009 H1N1 Swine Flu Virus

Rate This

As the number of H1N1 virus cases continues to increase in the U.S. everyone should be diligent in ways to prevent the illness. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is concerned that the new H1N1 flu virus could result in a particularly severe 2009-2010 flu season. The H1N1 virus is now widespread and confirmed in 41 states.

“Nationwide, visits to doctors for influenza-like-illness increased over last week and this many reports of widespread activity are unprecedented during seasonal flu,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat with the CDC. “In addition, flu-related hospitalizations and deaths are increasing and are higher than expected for this time of year and are beyond the epidemic threshold.”

Most people who get the flu –either seasonal or 2009 H1N1— will have mild illness and will not necessarily need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will typically recover in less than two weeks.

For those with cancer and undergoing cancer treatment, any flu virus is of particular concern. Cancer and cancer treatments can make your immune system weak and less able to fight germs. There are several things all cancer patients should know about the new strain of H1N1.

Cancer patients are considered among those in the high-risk group and should get both the common flu and H1N1 virus vaccines, according to the CDC and the American Cancer Society. Any flu shots you've had in the past, including the swine flu vaccine used in 1976, will not protect you from this new H1N1 virus. It's a good idea for cancer patients to consult their physicians to see if additional medication is needed to prevent the flu and if the current vaccinations are recommended for them.

The CDC reports nearly all of the influenza viruses identified so far are 2009 H1N1 influenza A viruses. These viruses remain similar to the virus chosen for the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, and remain susceptible to the antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir with rare exception.

The CDC also reported a brief shortage of 2009 H1N1 vaccine this week, and at least initially, the vaccine will be available in limited quantities reserved for high-risk groups.

Add a Comment4 Comments

HERWriter Guide

Hi Lynnette - Thanks for the additional information, which will help many of us decide what to do. For myself, I talked with my oncologist today and he gave the green light for both. The sequence of shots will be based on vaccine availability.

It would indeed help to hear from a public health professional and I hope we do. I also hope you'll keep an eye on this topic for all of us so we can stay informed throughout this unique flu season. Thanks again for your help and expertise.

Take good care,

October 21, 2009 - 5:14pm

Hi Pat,

Thanks for your questions. The recommendation from the CDC and ACS is to obtain the regular flu shot first, and then the H1N1, however, I believe that recommendation was based on the fact that the seasonal flu vacine became available first. It would be prudent to consult ones physician to ensure if the influenza vaccines would be a benefit and if there are resources for only one, which vaccine would be recommended. The CDC and ACS offers general guidelines only and since not everyone will respond equally to the vaccines, ultimately, if you have cancer and are undergoing treatment one's attending physician should make the call. It appears from the CDC data that the number of cases of H1N1 are climbing faster than the seasonal flu. However, it is unclear how much testing/reporting is being done to identify if the cases are H1N1 or seasonal. Perhaps someone working in public health epidemiology could clarify for us. These are great questions Pat. Thanks again for asking.
Best always,

October 21, 2009 - 3:46pm
HERWriter Guide

Hi Lynnette -
Thanks for providing us with this timely information. I'd appreciate more information on the recommendation from CDC and the American Cancer Society that cancer patients should get both the common flu and H1N1 virus vaccines. Should the vaccines be obtained at the same time, or should there be an interval between vaccinations? If funds are limited, which one is the higher priority? Or, are these questions a patients should ask their oncologist?
Again, thanks for the information and I look forward to your response.
Take good care,

October 20, 2009 - 5:30pm
EmpowHER Guest

I should think it would be safe and actually healthier for patients to walk their own dogs. Outdoors they are unlikely to be exposed to the virus if they practice "social distancing" and wash their hands after touching public surfaces. They run a greater risk having someone else come into their house and handle the leash and the dog and possibly contaminate surfaces inside the house. And exercise is vital to promoting good health and improved immunity.

October 20, 2009 - 12:28pm
Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy
Add a Comment

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.