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What to do about the flu

Truth be told, I’ve been discussing the flu and flu vaccines – both seasonal and the swine/H1N1 variety – at work for at least 3 months now. We’ve been seeing a lot of swine flu around here – mostly, thank God, mild cases, but I’ve given my share of Tamiflu to ill pregnant women, asthmatics, and even a little girl with leukemia. It’s about time I discussed it here.

Seasonal flu vaccination is in full swing in our clinic. Spurred by the death of a local woman (she was not a patient of my clinic, but lived across the street) and her full-term fetus from swine flu, patients have been getting themselves and their children vaccinated in record numbers this year.

The first H1N1 vaccine doses arrived here in Israel about 2 weeks ago from Switzerland, but in typical Israeli fashion, the Health Ministry decided not to allow their use in pregnant women (who are 4-5 times as likely to die if they contract the flu) and children under 3 years of age. I was told by our local infectious disease specialist this week that the reason for this was because they contained squalene as an adjuvant, and because squalene is not FDA-approved, the Health Ministry decided to await the arrival of vaccine which doesn’t contain it to vaccinate these groups. The rest of us will be getting the vaccine starting December. (Hebrew link to the Israeli Health Ministry’s FAQ on the subject).

Yes, that sound you hear is my head banging on the desk in frustration.

Anyhow, if you’d like some reliable, alarming (but not alarmist) actual information about swine flu, you’ll want to go to the CDC’s website on the subject. I’m putting their flu widget on the sidebar for now as well, so that if you can access the site from anywhere on the blog if you want to be up on the latest.

Of course, no matter what vaccine is under discussion, you can count on the usual anti-vax crazies to come up with horror stories and conspiracy theories. Dr Val Jones and crew give Dr Joe Mercola (and I use the term ‘Dr.’ very loosely here) a well-deserved tongue-lashing; factcheck.org also has an excellent response to all those hysterical emails you might be getting on the subject (like the one on my local email list today, which quoted liberally from websites such as healthfreedomusa.org and naturalnews.com).

Orac, of course, also weighs in on a story being put out by anti-vaxers about a young woman who allegedly developed dystonia after receiving a flu vaccine. The verdict: most probably a psychogenic disorder. (I have to admit that I thought the same thing when I first saw the video in question, but not being an expert on the subject, I would have hesitated to state this categorically without an expert opinion).

EDITED Nov 5th TO ADD: Sure ’nuff

And I really can’t talk about vaccines – H1N1 or otherwise – without exhorting those of you (yes, all 3 of you :) ) who haven’t read this fabulous article at wired.com yet, to go and read it. Now.

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3 Responses

  1. Thanks for the link… and for standing up for science with us. :)

  2. Thank you.

  3. You know what’s funny, not funny ha-ha, but funny. I am facebook ‘friends’ with the CDC and they regularly post stats about the number of case seen around the country, hospitalizations, etc, also, updates on the vaccine and availability and who should get it. On almost every recent post there are quite a few anti-vax types spouting all sorts of nonsense and I have to wonder, why do they even follow CDC if they’re just some big gov’t conspirators plotting all things evil? The good news is people shoot the yahoos down almost as quickly as they appear.

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