According to official Thailand statistics, a total of 30,024 people throughout the country have contracted Type A H1N1 influenza virus this year and 50 of them have died, according to public health permanent secretary Dr. Narong Sahamethapat.
Those are big numbers, and we should not forget the panic with the Swine Flu (also H1N1) a few years ago. Bulletins from the WHO every day added to the hysteria. When the label ‘pandemic level 6’ was applied, people stopped going out of their houses!
Where the WHO let itself and us down, was that the ‘pandemic level 6’ only referred to the contagious nature of the virus (and H1N1 is certainly highly contagious). However, with only around 4000 deaths in the world from that 2009 Swine Flu virus, just how lethal was it, when the seasonal flu kills 36,000 people each year just in the US alone, and 200-300 people in Thailand? Read those numbers again – 200-300 people from the seasonal flu in Thailand! That’s from “nothing out of the ordinary” flu!
Right, what can you do about avoiding a full-blown influenza infection this year? In one word – vaccinate! My hospital has published some of the important facts about flu vaccination. While how well the flu vaccine works can vary, there are still many good reasons to get a flu vaccine each year.
Quite simply, flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick from flu. Protecting yourself from flu also protects the people around you who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness. That’s the contagious nature again.
Flu vaccination can help protect people who are at greater risk of getting seriously ill from flu, like older adults, people with chronic health conditions and young children.
Flu vaccination also may make your illness milder if you do fall ill.
Flu vaccination can reduce the risk of more serious flu outcomes, like hospitalizations and deaths.
A recent study showed that flu vaccine reduced children’s risk of flu-related pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) admission by 74 percent during flu seasons from 2010-2012.
One study showed that flu vaccination was associated with a 71 percent reduction in flu-related hospitalizations among adults of all ages and a 77 percent reduction among adults 50 years of age and older during the 2011-2012 flu season.
Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with chronic health conditions. Vaccination was associated with lower rates of some cardiac events among people with heart disease, especially among those who had had a cardiac event in the past year. Flu vaccination also has been shown to be associated with reduced hospitalizations among people with diabetes (79 percent) and chronic lung disease (52 percent).
Vaccination helps protect women during pregnancy and their babies for up to 6 months after they are born. One study showed that giving flu vaccine to pregnant women was 92 percent effective in preventing hospitalization of infants for flu.
Other studies have shown that vaccination can reduce the risk of flu-related hospitalizations in older adults. A study that looked at flu vaccine effectiveness over the course of three flu seasons estimated that flu vaccination lowered the risk of hospitalizations by 61 percent in people 50 years of age and older.
There are special vaccination instructions for children aged 6 months through to eight years of age as some children require two doses of influenza vaccine. Children in this age group who are getting vaccinated for the first time, as well as some who have been vaccinated previously, will need two doses. Your child’s health care provider can tell you whether two doses are recommended for your child.
A 2009 H1N1-like virus wasn’t added to the seasonal vaccine until the 2010-2011 flu season. This means that children who did not get the 2009 H1N1 vaccine in 2009-2010, or a seasonal flu vaccine in 2010-2011 or later, will not be fully protected from the 2009 H1N1 virus until they also receive two doses of the 2013-2014 flu vaccine.
In some quarters there is resistance to influenza immunization, but to be honest, I cannot understand why. Sure, there are risks involved with immunization, but those risks are very, very small compared to the risks in getting the flu.