CDC Highlights H1N1 Risks

CDC highlights risks of H1N1 virus ("swine flu") for children with epilepsy.

The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta announced that, as of 8/8/09, 477 people in the US died from H1N1 influenza (flu), including 36 children. Nearly 70% of these children had chronic high-risk medical conditions such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy or developmental delay. This emphasizes the importance of caretakers of children with chronic medical conditions consulting with their physicians about obtaining vaccinations against H1N1 before the vaccine becomes available, currently estimated to be in October of 2009.

H1N1 flu is contagious for up to a week and can be spread from person to person. Flu typically causes symptoms of fever, chills, muscle/joint aches, headaches, fatigue, runny nose, sore throat, cough and sometimes vomiting or diarrhea. The large majority of children with these symptoms will NOT have H1N1 swine flu. Most H1N1 cases are mild and improve on their own. But children who have these symptoms and are at high risk, such as those with epilepsy, should be evaluated by their physician. A blood test can verify whether H1N1 flu is present. Treatment with Tamiflu or other therapies may shorten the illness.

Certain behaviors can help to avoid catching or spreading viruses. Cover your nose or mouth when you sneeze. Use a tissue and throw it away. Wash your hands often, especially after sneezing. Avoid close contact with someone who is sick from a virus. Stay home until your fever is gone for at least a day. When the time comes, follow the government’s recommendations on who should receive the H1N1 and regular flu vaccinations. The fear that vaccinations lead to autism is not backed up by scientific studies. Vaccines do sometimes cause side effects, but the risk must be balanced against the known risks of catching flu. CDC, the FDA and others will detail the side effects and risks of the vaccines now under development when they become known.

Robert S. Fisher, M.D., Ph.D.

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