In France, the Health Ministry is suggesting a ban on the customary greeting of “la bise” (kissing on cheeks) because of concern over spreading germs and possibly the H1N1 flu virus, as reported by the Associated Press. There is a lot of scary talk and situational stories going around about the flu pandemic H1N1 (i.e., swine flu), and the vaccine that will be available in mid-October.
I personally have heard reports of families (particularly those with children who just started back to school) being directed to go to the hospital for testing and/or to receive the seasonal flu vaccine if one member of that family is diagnosed with the H1N1 virus. I also have heard that most children’s hospitals around the Nation are discussing requiring employees to get the seasonal flu vaccine and designating contingency plans for accommodating staff absences because of seasonal and H1N1 flu infections. While I’m not sure if that is a usual occurrence, my interest is piqued enough to want more information.
We all have a decision to make, and that is if you will get the vaccine or take your chances. I believe information is power, so I would like to share what I found out.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov), activity of the virus increased in the last week of August based on criteria outlined to track yearly influenza spread. Criteria includes: doctor visits for flu-like symptoms, influenza hospitalizations for adults and children, the amount of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza and six states reporting wide-spread influenza, which is unusual for August. Finally, there is reported cases where the virus has been positively identified in addition to its susceptibility to antiviral drugs. It is not unusual for activity to increase as the warmer months go away and we head into the colder part of the year, and flu season along with it. But it is unusual for reported cases of flu to be at the level they are in August and early September.
The CDC website states that the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against H1N1 infection.