The Swine Flu controversy

November 1st, 2009 - By Steven Longenecker

The symptoms of H1N1, more commonly called swine flu, are similar to any other flu: fever, sore throat, cough, headache, fatigue, body chills and aches, vomiting and diarrhea.

But getting a shot can greatly reduce your chances of experiencing any of those—by as much as 75 percent—so why is there so much resistance to the vaccine? “The benefits of the shot far outweigh the risk of the shot,” says Dr. Alexander Stemer, an infectious disease specialist at Medical Specialists Centers of Indiana.

One difference between the regular flu and the swine flu is that the mortality rates of 24- to 59-year-olds are much higher with the swine flu. Stemer says one reason for this is because older adults may have built up immunity to the virus because of earlier, related strains.

Concerns about the shot remain, however. On the other side are people thinking about the unfortunate 1976 vaccine—a shot that led to Guillain-Barré syndrome, a paralyzing neuromuscular disorder. But according to the American Academy of Neurology, the 2009 H1N1 vaccine does not create an increased risk for GBS.

Another oft-mentioned myth from those deciding against the shot is that the vaccine can itself cause the flu. “Put that concern aside,” Stemer says.

The only reactions to expect are the same mild reactions of vaccines over the past 20 years.

So far, pediatrician Dr. Marc Connery of the Child Life Center in Merrillville has yet to see any cases of H1N1, but emphasizes the importance for children to receive the vaccine because they experience the highest infection rates.

So what to do if you think you have H1N1?

“If the symptoms are trivial, nothing,” Stemer says. “Stay home, get rest, drink fluids and take antihistamines and Tylenol or Advil for achiness and a low-grade temperature.”

However, there are two scenarios where you should definitely see your physician: First, if you have a cough and fever of more than 103 degrees, as well as shortness of breath. And second, if there is a second spike of fever and cough after initial improvement—it could be a sign of post-influenza pneumonia.

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