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ALERT: SWINE FLU VACCINE
When the H1N1 (swine) flu virus emerged last spring, we contacted many of you. Consumer Reports Health has continued to monitor information about the flu's reappearance this fall. There are currently significant outbreaks in 21 states and in some institutions, especially colleges, where large numbers of high-risk people live in close contact with each other, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
A September 2009 Consumer Reports survey of 1,502 Americans about their plans for getting vaccinated against both seasonal flu and H1N1 flu has uncovered information we believe can help with your decision-making process about vaccinations for yourself and family members.
Made up your mind?
Our survey shows that many Americans are undecided about whether to get the H1N1 flu vaccine for themselves, or whether to have their children vaccinated. A large group is awaiting further information before they decide. We think that it is a good sign that many are seriously considering getting the newly approved vaccine and encourage you to visit ConsumerReportsHealth.org frequently to stay on top of the latest information.
Know your risks
Alas, according to our survey many Americans are unaware that they are at high risk for developing H1N1 or for suffering serious complications from the disease. The risk groups for H1N1 are somewhat different than those for seasonal flu. We recommend that you check whether you or family members are in a high-risk group for H1N1 because of age, employment, or health conditions. All high-risk people should seriously consider vaccination when it becomes available, especially if H1N1 infections are circulating in your community.
Call to health- and child-care workers
Along with the CDC, we urge vaccination for health- and child-care workers who are at escalated risk for contracting and spreading the disease. We believe these professionals have a responsibility to themselves and to those they care for to get vaccinated against H1N1.
Other ways to avoid spreading illness
Finally, our survey suggests consumers understand the benefits of hand washing and avoidance of those with flu symptoms. We'd also like to emphasize the importance of staying home from work when sick and using appropriate masks when someone at home has the flu.
There is still time for all of us to help prevent significant illness from H1N1 flu this fall. As the situation unfolds, we'll be working hard to get good, fact-based information and recommendations to consumers. We invite you to comment on our information at www.consumerreportshealth.org/swineflu.
John Santa, M.D., M.P.H.
Director, Consumer Reports Health Ratings Center