The H1N1 virus, better known as the swine flu, is projected to be a major threat this winter. We hear about this virus in the news and are aware of its existence, but most of us are not aware of its history or the effectiveness of the vaccines that were created to treat this strain of influenza. I chose to research information about the H1N1 virus to make a more educated decision on whether or not I should have my daughter vaccinated.
The presence of this virus was brought to our attention in the spring of 2009 when the Mexican government began closing most of the public facilities in Mexico City due to an outbreak. Evidently, there was already a case of widespread swine flu there before it caught our attention. It spread to the United States as well as many other countries by June of 2009. The swine flu dates back to 1918 when it was commonly referred to as the Spanish Flu, though its origin was never detected. Five hundred million people were affected world-wide and 50 to 100 million people died as result. The virus attacked people with healthy immune systems and the popular idea that children and elderly people would be affected the most was not the case. A healthy immune system would over-do itself to try to beat the virus and in the meantime, it would overreact and actually have the reverse effect on the body.
A strain of H1N1 was responsible for a smaller outbreak in 1976 where a soldier at Fort Dix died right after complaining of not feeling well. This strain was controlled, but a new one was born right after which spread very quickly. A vaccination was created to prevent the re-occurrence of the epidemic that took so many lives in 1918. The vaccination helped with the spread of the virus, but it ended up taking more lives than the virus itself. Many died as the result of adverse reactions to the vaccine and 532 people were diagnosed with Guillian-BarrĂ© syndrome as a direct result from taking it. This is an autoimmune disorder that results in nerve damage among many other debilitating health problems. Many people who have Guillian-BarrĂ© syndrome need to undergo a form of dialysis where antibodies are removed from the blood and the blood is replenished back to the body. It is possible to survive this health condition but there is usually a long road to recovery which can take many years.
There was a limited case of swine flu labeled as Zoonosis which was detected in 1988 when a pregnant woman in Wisconsin died after being in contact with infected pigs at a fair. There were a few others who came in contact with her that were infected with a mild form of the virus. Many pigs were found to be infected across the entire U.S. in 1998 and it was deemed that the pigs had a typical flu that transformed into a new strain due to a combination of their own flu fused with those of humans and birds. Many pigs were infected in the Philippines in 2007 as well. The H1N1 virus is a combination of influenza spun from four different forms including 2 parts human flu, 1 part bird flu and 1 part pig flu.
The 2009 H1N1 virus exhibits symptoms that are similar to your everyday flu. These include a sudden fever and cough along with any of the other common flu symptoms like chills and body aches. Most people who catch the virus can treat it as they normally would with bed rest and fluids. People who have a weakened immune system can experience further complications like pneumonia or even respiratory failure. Those who are considered to be at a higher risk are people under 5 and over 65 years old. People who have recently undergone asthma treatments by taking prescription drugs are also at risk. H1N1 can have an incubation period of up to 7 days, though this has not been confirmed. It can be acquired the same way as the common flu through something as simple as a sneeze. One out of 1,000 people died of the swine flu which is comparable to the amount of people who have died from common flu. The best way to prevent from getting sick is by routine hand washing and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough and quickly disposing it.
How do we know if we have a common flu or the swine flu? In most cases we don’t and physicians normally do not test patients to differentiate which virus they have. They will conduct a test if the symptoms are severe by administering a blood test or swabbing the back of the nose and throat. H1N1 is usually treated with Tamiflu or Relenza when it is diagnosed. These are antiviral medications that are used to treat the symptoms until the virus runs its course. The fact that most people are not tested for the H1N1 virus is concerning.
The numbers of people who actually carry this virus has to be unknown if everyone infected with flu symptoms has not been tested. Even though most people with this virus have a mild form of it, I would think that The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would want to know how many cases are out there whether the infected people have severe symptoms or not. If this virus is more widespread than we think, perhaps it’s possible for an even larger strain to develop that we are not prepared for. I’m wondering why it is recommended to be vaccinated this year to prevent this illness if there is not enough concern for doctors to even test for it. The fatality rate is the same for the H1N1 virus as it is for the common flu and most of us have functioned just fine without a vaccination for that.
The H1N1 vaccination is not a cure for the virus as it is simply a preventative measure. Flu vaccines are on average 70-80% effective according to information provided by Fox News. Keep in mind that if you take this vaccine, you will be injected with a form of the virus that has been grown inside chicken eggs in a laboratory. Testing for the product’s safety just began earlier this month and it is already deemed to be safe. It is now being “tested” on pregnant women and children. Are these pregnant women and parents of these children who are being “tested” willing participants? It is possible for a person to develop immunity about 5 weeks after the vaccination process is complete, allowing you to fall victim to the virus in the meantime.
This is due to the fact that each person will need at least two rounds of the vaccine for it to be effective. It is said that there will only be a portion of the vaccines available in October, then more vaccinations will be released each month thereafter. Is this a way to test the vaccine that was just recently reconstructed from the same type of vaccine that was administered in 1976? This is not all that concerns me. They will also be throwing in additives that have never been tested to the second batch of vaccines. How long will they test that batch if it hasn’t even been created yet?
Do I want to vaccinate my daughter? I think not, and I hope it does not become mandatory. I have weighed the pros and cons of getting her vaccinated. Do I take extra precautions so my daughter does not get the virus that is practically identical to the common flu? Keeping her safe from the flu doesn’t seem as important as preventing the problems that can occur from taking the vaccine. The vaccine administered in 1976 and the cases of Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome that resulted from it is concerning. I would rather my child have a mild form of the flu than to die from her immune system attacking her nervous system later in life. Neurologists have already been alerted to keep their eyes open for new cases of Guillain-BarrĂ© syndrome when the vaccination is released. It seems that the risks outweigh the benefits with this vaccine, but it’s not easy for drug companies to turn down an opportunity to make a killing in revenue.