Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Diabetes, the Swine Flu, and You

News reports about the H1N1 influenza ("swine flu") pandemic keep coming, but one aspect of the story is constant: although the majority of the cases are mild, H1N1 is occasionally a killer.

The first doses of the vaccine became available in early October, but supply has been scarce. It turns out the H1N1 vaccine may only need a single dose to be effective (previously, it was thought two separate doses might be needed to protect against the virus), but still all children under the age of 10 will need two doses. All of this is good news, because to date over 3,000 people have died from swine flu since it was first isolated in Mexico in April.

The deaths are frequently described as occurring in people with underlying diseases, but occasionally in healthy young adults. The underlying diseases are rarely described, and I have been watching to see if diabetes is mentioned as a comorbidity -- and it occasionally is. For example, an Italian man with diabetes and chronic heart problems was the country's first swine flu victim. While fighting the flu virus, he developed a staphylococcal infection, pneumonia and kidney problems.

So if you or your child have diabetes, what should you do?

First, be informed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has several webpages on the H1N1 flu. One that is updated regularly is:
2009 H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu).

They also have a webpage about H1N1 and diabetes, which has numerous hyperlinks to other information:
H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) Information

Other agencies also have information of interest: The HHS has a webpage with quite a catchy title:

It has information about bird flu, swine flu, and "routine" flu.

Second, plan to get all the flu shots this fall.

Children with diabetes and everyone who lives with them should get the "routine" flu shot, which is already available, and later, when it's available, also get the H1N1/swine flu shot (or shots, if it turns out that two shots are needed for protection from H1N1). Every year, there's a risk of an epidemic of routine viral flu, and this year is no different. The "routine" flu shot will help decrease the risk of getting the routine flu, but will not protect against the new H1N1 strain. Just the same, getting the H1N1 vaccination will not decrease the risk of getting routine flu.

Third, follow routine advice that the CDC is suggesting for everyone:

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
* Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
* Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

By putting these three steps together, your child with diabetes might not guarantee that he/she will be spared from the flu this fall and winter, but the chances of missing out will be significantly improved. And in this case, missing out is actually a very good thing.

Be Well,

1 comment:

  1. nature"s secret