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Remember last year and the whole swine flu panic? H1N1 was in the news daily, with stories of a probable pandemic (that indeed was considered a pandemic by season’s end) and emerging and dire warnings of the consequences of not getting a flu shot. Granted, the symptoms of this kind of flu were just awful. One of my children got it and was in abject misery for a good ten days. In fact, by the end of 2009 most doctors in my area had stopped testing for this strain because it was assumed that anyone with the flu likely had the H1N1 strain.
Many died last year from the flu, like every year. According to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, more than 35,000 people die from the regular A strains of flu every year. More than 200,000 will be hospitalized (often the very young or very old) and somewhere from 5 to 20 percent of Americans will get the flu annually.
A study has just come out that tracked and measured the symptoms and effects of the H1N1 strain of flu in 2009, compared to the "regular" flu strains. The CDC’s Influenza Division and the Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation in Marshfield, Wisconsin conducted the research. The H1N1 strain was seen more in young children, young adults and pregnant women, as well as those ill with other conditions. But the strain did not show worse or different symptoms, nor deaths, as opposed to the (regular) Influenza A type. About 12,500 people died last year from the H1N1 strain – fewer than the A strains.
More on this study can be read in the Journal of the American Medical Association issue released today (Sept 8th, 2010). http://jama.ama-assn.org/
Last year also saw a controversy created by possible side effects of the H1N1 vaccination. The tiny risk of contracting Guillain Barre syndrome made many (understandably) nervous as well as the use of mercury as a preservative in flu shots. Still, doctors insist, the risk of dying or being hospitalized from flu is much higher.