Saturday, November 21, 2009

Update on H1N1

During the last week, there has been a decrease in influenza activity across the United States. There are some other recent developments as well.

Norwegian health authorities have discovered a mutation in the H1N1 virus that leads to more serious symptoms. It causes the virus to go deeper into the respiratory system. It's not widespread, but similar mutations have been found in other countries.

H1N1, a mixture of swine, bird and human viruses, has recently been found in three cats, one in Iowa, one in Utah, and one in Oregon who died of the virus. Five ferrets have also contracted the disease. Recommendations for limiting the virus in animals is similar to that in humans...wash hands (especially before feeding), use sanitizer, sneeze and cough into your arm or a tissue, avoid touching your face and the animal's face, and limit contact with the pet while you are sick.

British officials are investigating a strain of the H1N1 virus that is resistant to the antiviral Tamiflu. So far there has been no confirmed person-to-person transmission of this strain.

There is some good news. The H1N1 vaccine appears to have the same safety record as that of the seasonal flu vaccine. Even better, 80 million doses have been distributed, and 65 million have been given worldwide.

Of course, there is a problem with the availability of the vaccine. In my area, H1N1 vaccines have only been available by appointment through the county health department, and then only for certain populations. In fact, I've been on a waiting list for several weeks for the regular seasonal flu shot and still have not been called to make an appointment to get the vaccine.

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