To Get the Shot, or to Not Get the Shot...

That's the question that I'm trying to answer tonight. I've talked about it with several people before deciding to do my own research because I kept hearing different things and I don't know if any of these people know what the hell they're talking about. Some background on my history with the flu: I have no history with the flu. For as long as I can remember, I've never had the flu (I'm knocking on my wooden headboard right now). And I've worked in retail since I was 16, and I lived in dorms half of my time in college, so I definitely had the opportunity to get it.

My boss told me that this could either give me a higher chance of getting the flu or make it worse for me if I get it since I have no immunities built up against it. Smokey and her brother, who I may start calling the know-it-all twins, have both told me that I shouldn't get it (and her pregnant ass isn't getting it) because it can have bad side effects, and the same number of people who get the regular flu have gotten the swine flu and everybody's making a big deal out of nothing. And their mama was a nurse and she not to get it so there.

My thinking was that I was going to get a flu shot this year anyway because I'm trying to go the rest of my life without ever having the flu, and the one that I got two years ago kept me from getting the flu even though I spent 5 days working behind a counter with my boss who had it. So, if I was going to get a regular one, why not get this one for the H1N1? But the side effect stuff does worry me, and I keep hearing that it wasn't tested nearly as well as most flu vaccines are, so I decided that I should research it myself and figure out what's the best action to take.

One thing that Smokey was telling me yesterday was that there haven't been any more deaths from the swine flu than there usually are from the regular flu.  Well, I don't know where that information came from, because according to the CDC;
Exact numbers of how many people died from flu this season cannot be determined. Flu-associated deaths are only a nationally notifiable condition among children, and states are not required to report flu cases or to report adult deaths from influenza to CDC. In addition, many people who die of complications from flu infection are not tested for flu, or they seek medical care later in their illness when influenza can no longer be detected from respiratory samples.
So, flu deaths were probably always under reported in previous years, and may be this year as well.  Either way, I can't accurately glean any comparative information from looking at adult deaths from this year (because they are being reported this year by most states).  But for child deaths from the flu, which are reported, the results are these for the past few flu seasons:
  • During the 2003-04 Season, 153 flu-associated deaths in children were reported to CDC.
  • During the 2004-05 Season, 47 deaths in children were reported to CDC.
  • During the 2005-06 Season, 46 deaths in children were reported to CDC.
  • During the 2006-07 season, 76 deaths in children were reported to CDC.
  • As of June 14, 2008, 83 deaths in children occurring during the 2007-08 season have been reported to CDC.
There's no 2008-2009 info because we're technically still in that flu season, even though the 2009-2010 season appears to have already started.  The flu season usually lasts October through May.  The 08-09 season has lasted a full year at this point.  We're not getting a break.  Here's the CDC's information for two weeks ago:

2009-2010 Influenza Season Week 40 ending October 10, 2009

All data are preliminary and may change as more reports are received.


During week 40 (October 4-10, 2009), influenza activity increased in the U.S.
  • 4,093 (29.4%) specimens tested by U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) collaborating laboratories and reported to CDC/Influenza Division were positive for influenza.
  • All subtyped influenza A viruses being reported to CDC were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses.
  • The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was above the epidemic threshold.
  • Eleven influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported. Ten of these deaths were associated with 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus infection and one was associated with an influenza A virus, for which subtype is undetermined.
  • The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was above the national baseline. All 10 regions reported ILI above region-specific baseline levels.
 The emphasis is mine.  So, 11 children died in one week from the swine flu, and if you recall (or scroll up), the total child deaths from two flu seasons ago was 83 (in about a 5 month period of time).  11 may not seem like a lot compared to the number of children in this country, but it's a huge increase, and it's only going to increase more as we get deep into flu season.  Also, looking at the more detailed information on the same page, the majority of the child deaths between August 30th and October 10th have been teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17.

Also, we are above epidemic threshold.  If this were a zombie virus, I'd be registering for a gun and fortifying my doors and windows.  There's much more information on the CDC website, but this was enough for me to look at.  They have great weekly reports, I'll most definitely be checking back regularly.

Other depressing but informative tidbits that I learned about the H1N1 flu on this WebMD blog:
  • 6% of H1N1 deaths have been pregnant women, which is not good, because pregnant women only make up 1% of our population at any given time.  They make up 7% of all H1N1 hospitalizations.  I will still have no luck convincing Smokey that it's time to stop acting like a stubborn teenager and start acting like Mom who has to make a tough decision for the sake of her kid.
  • The H1N1 vaccine has been tested just as much as the vaccine for the regular flu.
  • The side effects for the H1N1 vaccine are the same as for the regular flu vaccine.
  • One or two people out of every million people who get a flu vaccine will develop "Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a serious nerve condition that causes weakness and sometimes paralysis.  Most people recover fully".  So, the side effects of the flu or swine flu are less crappy (unless you end up with pneumonia or some other respiratory illness), but your chances of getting the flu or swine flu are much greater.
  • In this article written earlier this week,  the CDC has confirmed that while seasonal flu deaths tend to be 90% elderly people, since September of this year swine flu deaths have been 90% people under 65, with a quarter of those people under 25 yrs old!
  • Here's an article debunking various flu shot myths.
And on a podcast I was listening to they talked about women being more susceptible to having complications from the swine flu...well, why try to regurgitate what I learned when I can do this instead:

I love technology.  They also talk about who shouldn't take what type of vaccine depending on allergies and such things.

I'm not someone that believes everything that the government tells me, but I'm also not someone who thinks that everything is a big conspiracy and I should do the opposite of what "they" tell me to.  I ride the fence, as usual with me, but I think that makes me a more rational person.  While I do see that the media benefits in ratings (and therefore, money) by blowing the "swine flu" out of proportion, I've been ignoring most of that shit, and I don't see any benefit that anyone on top would get from the CDC lying or mis-reporting numbers or exaggerating by calling it an "epidemic", since these vaccines are free and costing the government an assload of money.  And since there doesn't seem to be a risk in getting the vaccine, I plan on doing so as soon as I can find out where to get one.

No comments: