Guest Author - A. Maria Hester, M.D.
The first cases of the 2009 novel H1N1 influenza A virus were detected in mid-April 2009. Between April 15, 2009 and July 24, 2009, a total of 43,771 confirmed and probable cases of novel influenza A (H1N1) were reported. Of these, 203 people died and 5,011 people were hospitalized, accord to the Centers for Disease Control. Case counts were discontinued on July 24, 2009, though the CDC will continue to acquire national reports of hospitalizations and deaths. Considering that not everyone who became ill will even saw his doctor during this time, and considering that of those who did, did not have formal testing, the CDC estimates that over one million people became sick as a result of the novel H1N1 flu between April and June 2009.
Almost all of the influenza viruses identified were 2009 H1N1 influenza A viruses. In addition, the hospitalization rate for influenza both children and adults are higher than typically occurs during the summer months. Fortunately, the proportion of deaths from influenza and pneumonia was low, and on par with what would be expected during the summer.
While eleven states, including Maryland, reporting widespread influenza activity which is very unusual in August and September and almost all of the strains identified were 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus, these viruses are similar to those chosen to develop the 2009 H1N1 vaccine, and the overwhelming majority of them are susceptible to the antiviral drugs oseltamivr and zanamivir.
The CDCís Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that the following high-risk individuals get vaccinated against H1N1:
Household contacts and caregivers for children under 6 months of ago
Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
All those from the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age
Those betwwen 25 and 64 years of age who have health conditions associated with a high risk of medical complications, should they get the flu.
While, unlike the season flu, H1N1 has relatively spared the older population, no one is immune. In addition, while influenza itself may cause a life-threatening pneumonia, frequently there is a superinfection with a bacterial organism that actually claims the lives of flu victims. Pneumonia and influenza are still among the major killers of Americans. All seniors should receive the pneumonia vaccine, which will decrease the risk of severe complications should they come down the with most common type of pneumonia we see, streptococal pneumonia. This vaccine will not prevent all types of pneumonia, since not all cases of pneumonia are due to this particular organism. Nevertheless, since such a high percentage of cases are due to Streptococcal pneumoniae, this vaccine can save many, many lives.
ATTENTION: Dr. Hester will be interviewed on Health Radio at 1:15 pm CT, Wednesday, October 14, 2009 on the Melanie Cole Show. The topic will be patient empowerment. (You can hear interview streaming live from your computer).
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