Swine Flu Not a Major Concern This Flu Season
The threat has passed: Most Americans are immune to the virus that caused last year's swine flu pandemic, new research suggests. About 59 percent of the U.S. population has developed immunity to H1N1, the virus that causes swine flu, either from exposure to similar viruses, vaccination, or natural H1N1 infection, according to a report by researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, published today in the journal mBio. That number will likely increase as people receive this year's flu shot, which protects against three strains of flu, including H1N1. About 62 million people have been vaccinated against the H1N1 virus, and 61 million have been infected, according to the study. Another 60 million people ages 57 or older are immune to swine flu because they carry protective antibodies, a sign they were infected by or exposed to a similar virus during a previous pandemic.
Perhaps no flu season in recent memory has been as hyped and harrowing as last year's, when swine flu infected millions and vaccine shortages led to long lines and frustration. U.S. News answers pressing questions about this year's season, the latest vaccine, and how to stay healthy.
- 7 Nasty Germs That Could Land Your Kid in the Hospital—and How to Avoid Them
- School Kids Need Flu Shots—but Why?
Flu Season 2010-11: What to Know to Stay Healthy
For the first time, the CDC is recommending vaccination for everyone 6 months and older—not just the medically vulnerable, says Henry Bernstein, a professor of pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics' infectious diseases committee. Vaccination is particularly important for high-risk groups, including children, those 65 and over, pregnant women, and anyone with an underlying condition that weakens the immune system, such as HIV, asthma, diabetes, or cancer. Since infants 6 months and under can't be vaccinated, their entire family—and their caregivers—should get the shot, Bernstein says.
Most people only need one shot. Children ages 6 months to 9 years, however, need two doses if they've never been vaccinated against flu, or if they only received one dose of the H1N1 vaccine last year. Those doses are given four weeks apart. The first dose primes the immune system, while the second provides immune protection, says Deborah Wexler, a family physician who founded the Immunization Action Coalition, an advocacy group that works to increase immunization rates. If a child needs two doses but only receives one, he or she will have little or no flu protection. [Read more: Flu Season 2010-11: What to Know to Stay Healthy.]
Popular Health Articles from USNews.com
- Use These 8 Foods to Help You Lose Weight
- 5 Reasons That May Explain Why Type 1 Diabetes Is on the Rise
- How to Decide if a Nursing Home Is Necessary
- Flu Season 2010-11: What to Know to Stay Healthy
- Video: How to Prevent High Cholesterol