Scientists gathered in October to discuss a very timely topic- the flu. While influenza may not be the headline news that it was last year with the H1N1 epidemic, the flu is very much on the minds of many scientists and doctors nation- and world-wide. The October gathering presented the newest research on the flu virus and attempts to vaccinate against it.
Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah and chairman of the Pandemic Influenza Task Force for the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said, “A year ago, everyone was focused on influenza and thought many of the important issues were answered, but anyone who knows the field knows that we continue to make advances.”
The annual meeting of the Pandemic Influenza Task Force for the Infectious Diseases Society of America was held in Vancouver last week. Highlights include the following:
● Children who lived with nonsmokers and household members who had been vaccinated against the flu were less likely to become infected. More likely to become infected with influenza were people with lower incomes, those were behind on the usual schedule of childhood immunizations, and children with certain underlying medical conditions such as asthma, cancer, and some neurological disorders, report researchers from the New York University School of Medicine.
● “Neurological complications [such as encephalopathy and febrile seizures] related to H1N1 influenza were not as severe as anticipated, although they certainly did occur and they are important . . . and fatalities did occur,” said Dr. Carol Glaser, chief of epidemiology and the special investigation section in the Communicable Diseases and Emergency Response Branch of the California Department of Public Health. For unknown reasons, Asians were at higher risk for such complications.
● Three case studies involving hospitals with mandatory vaccination programs indicated that such programs had great success. “Mandatory vaccination programs protect patients, protect healthcare workers and their families, and may reduce absenteeism and enable better staffing during flu season,” said Dr. Robert Rakita, a clinical professor of medicine, allergy, and infectious diseases at the University of Washington, Seattle. “Our hope is that similar programs will become the standard of practice across the medical field.”
While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has not released any specific predictions for the 2010-2011 flu season, they are recommending that everyone get the flu shot as soon as possible as protection. The vaccine this year does include a vaccine against the H1N1 strain that was widespread last year and caused deaths worldwide.
Influenza can be more severe for people with diabetes due to many factors and can make the flu more dangerous than it is for the general population. This is very important to keep in mind in making your personal decision to get vaccinated.