Swine Flu FAQ
Answers to your questions about swine flu.
Is there a vaccine against the new swine flu virus? continued...
Clinical tests show the 2009 H1N1 vaccine works remarkably well. People ages 10 and older need only one dose of the vaccine. Protection begins about eight days after vaccination. Kids under age 10 will need two vaccinations, given three weeks apart. The vaccine is highly effective -- and, according to early results from clinical trials, very safe -- in pregnant women.
Extensive safety surveillance, as of June 2010, showed no problems linked to the vaccine. Guillian-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare neurological syndrome, can be triggered by flu vaccines. The seasonal flu vaccine causes about one extra case of GBS among every million people vaccinated. CDC data suggest that the 2009 H1N1 vaccine increased GBS cases by about the same amount.
Does this mean the swine flu vaccine is 100% safe? No. Rare vaccine reactions do happen, even with the seasonal flu vaccine. But flu experts at the National Institutes of Health, the CDC, and the FDA note that getting the flu is far more risky than getting the vaccine.
Spurred by the safety concerns that sank vaccination efforts during the 1976 swine flu scare (a scare caused by a very different generation of flu vaccine against a very different swine flu virus), federal officials have increased efforts to track the safety of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine. In addition to beefing up the CDC's and FDA's vaccine adverse-event surveillance system, health care organizations, academic medical centers, and the U.S. military will be helping track vaccine safety. An advisory board made up of non-government advisors performs frequent reviews of the safety data.
The vaccine will be available to all U.S. residents. As we're all in this together, nobody will be asked to provide proof of citizenship or legal immigration.
Vaccination is not mandatory for most U.S. residents. Active-duty military and Defense Department personnel are required to get the vaccine. And health-care workers may be required to get the vaccine by their employers or by state regulations.
I had a flu vaccine this season. Am I protected against swine flu?
No. The 2009-2010 seasonal flu vaccine did not protect against the new swine flu virus.
But the 2010-2011 seasonal flu vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 swine flu. Don't wait for this vaccine if you are at high risk of serious flu. The 2009 H1N1 virus is still circulating. While there have been few infections in 2010, hospitalizations and deaths continue.
How can I prevent swine flu infection?
The CDC recommends taking these steps:
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing. Scrub for at least 20 seconds and rinse thoroughly.
- If soap and water are not available, wash your hands with an alcohol-based hand gel. Rub your hands together until the alcohol dries completely.
- Avoid close contact -- that is, being within 6 feet -- with people who have flu-like symptoms.
- Avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. That's not easy to do, so keep those hands clean.
- If you have flu-like symptoms -- fever plus at least cough or sore throat or other flu symptoms -- stay home for seven days after symptoms begin or until you've been symptom-free for 24 hours -- whichever is longer.
- Wear a face mask (consider using an N95 respirator) if you must come into close contact with a sick person. "Close contact" means within 6 feet. Note: There is no definitive proof that a face mask prevents flu transmission. Do not rely solely on a face mask to prevent infection.
- Wear an N95 respirator if helping a sick person with a nebulizer, inhaler, or other respiratory treatment. Note: There is no definitive proof that a respirator prevents flu transmission. Do not rely solely on a respirator to prevent infection.
- People who have or are suspected of having swine flu should wear a face mask, if available and tolerable, when sharing common spaces with other household members, when outside the home, or when near children or infants.
- Breastfeeding mothers with swine flu symptoms should express their breast milk, and the child should be fed by someone else.