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First Doses of Swine Flu Vaccine Coming Soon

CDC Says 3.4 Million Doses Will Be Ready in Early October

Do You Need Vaccine if You've Already Had a Flu-Like Illness? continued...

It's clear that a lot of people will have had the flu by the time the flu vaccine arrives.

If you've had a flu-like illness since the pandemic began, will you need a flu shot? Yes, Jernigan says.

It's true that you're immune to swine flu if you've already had it. But H1N1 swine flu isn't the only bug that causes flu-like symptoms.

Unless you've had a laboratory-confirmed case of swine flu -- not just a rapid flu test in a doctor's office, but a lab test of a nasal swab sample -- you really can't know that you've had the flu. And such tests aren't being done on people with mild cases of flu.

"There's no evidence that, even if you have immunity, getting the vaccine would cause problems or increase the chances of a reaction," Butler said. "Certainly for myself, if I had been ill in the past six months without a lab confirmation, I would definitely want to get the vaccine."

It's a Pandemic, but Not a Bad One

When swine flu first appeared, the signs were ominous: Previously healthy young people were showing up in hospitals with severe disease. Some died.

It looked as though the swine flu pandemic was going to be bad one. But that no longer seems to be the case.

Early severity estimates were based on cases that came to medical attention, while milder cases weren't at first noticed. Now it appears that -- at least so far -- we've been lucky. While lots of people have and will have swine flu, it's not as bad a pandemic as the terrible pandemic of 1918 or even the moderate pandemic of 1957.

This week, Harvard researcher Mark Lipsitch, PhD, told an Institute of Medicine meeting that on a 1 to 5 scale -- with 5 being a 1918-like pandemic -- the swine flu pandemic looks more like a 1.

Jernigan said that the CDC has been collaborating with Lipsitch, but is doing its own analysis.

"We are likely to have numbers that look very similar to what Dr. Lipsitch had," Jernigan said. "Our estimates do indicate that the amount of disease is about what we would expect for a severe influenza season and not at the levels of the pandemics from 1918 or 1957."

That said, Jernigan noted that flu viruses can change quite quickly, and that the CDC will continue to monitor the severity of the pandemic in the U.S. and elsewhere.

"There's only so much that you can do with forecasting," he said.

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