Hey, pig piggy pig pig pig...
November 2, 2009 2:13 PM   Subscribe

So, I had probable Swine Flu (H1N1) - do I still need the vaccine? If so, when should I get it?

I'm a 40 year old non pregnant woman with high risk issues (namely asthma and neuromuscular illness.), so I'm one of the prime candidates for the Swine Flu shot. However, it just became available in my area (Seattle), and before I could get it, I came down with probable Swine Flu.

I say 'probable' because I didn't get tested; I was able to handle the entire stretch of the illness with NyQuil, chicken soup, and herbal tea with honey. I didn't even see my doctor for this, nor go to the hospital. However, when I called my doctor's office for advice on treating this, they said that chances are that, listening to my symptoms, I had the Flu, and that it was probably H1N1 to boot, because that's over 95% of the flu cases going around. I'm all better now, and I didn't (thank God) have complications.

So, should I get my H1N1 vaccine? If so, should I get it now with the high risk groups, or wait until it's available to everybody? I already got my seasonal flu shot in October. I'd like to get vaccinated for H1N1 in case that's not what I had, but I also don't want to deprive someone else of badly needed vaccine.
posted by spinifex23 to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The symptoms of influenza (flu-like illnesses) are similar to those caused by many other viruses. Even when influenza viruses are causing large numbers of people to get sick, other viruses are also causing illnesses. Specific testing, called “RT-PCR test,” is needed in order to tell if an illness is caused by a specific influenza strain or by some other virus. This test is different from rapid flu tests that doctors can do in their offices. Since most people with flu-like illnesses will not be tested with RT-PCR this season, the majority will not know whether they have been infected with 2009 H1N1 flu or a different virus.

Therefore, if you were ill but do not know if you had 2009 H1N1 infection, you should get vaccinated, if your doctor recommends it. So, most people recommended for 2009 H1N1 vaccination should be vaccinated with the 2009 H1N1 vaccine regardless of whether they had a flu-like illness earlier in the year. If you have had 2009 H1N1 flu, as confirmed by an RT-PCR test, you should have some immunity against 2009 H1N1 flu and can choose not to get the 2009 H1N1 vaccine. However, vaccination of a person with some existing immunity to the 2009 H1N1 virus will not be harmful.

From here, emphasis mine.

CDC toll free #: 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636)
posted by ODiV at 2:22 PM on November 2, 2009

I was exposed to H1N1 a few months ago (coworker's son got sick, tested positive for H1N1, I got sick with the sam symptoms...) and recently asked my doctor if I should get tested anyway, or if I'm immune now. She said that they don't know, because the virus might have mutated since I was exposed to it, and so I should still get the shot. I definitely think you should get the shot!
posted by sarcasticah at 2:34 PM on November 2, 2009

Thanks, ODiV! There's been so much confusion and misinformation here that I didn't know where to turn for info. That answers my question exactly.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:56 PM on November 2, 2009

She said that they don't know, because the virus might have mutated since I was exposed to it, and so I should still get the shot.

I don't get it; Might not the virus have mutated since the vaccine was made or administered?
posted by low affect at 3:08 PM on November 2, 2009

It's not all-or-nothing. New strains can appear without the old one vanishing.

Mutation is a forking, not a wholesale replacement of the entire existing population of the virus. The vaccine protects you against the strain of it which is expected to be common, and that strain will still exist and still represent a threat even if a new version of it shows up somewhere.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:12 PM on November 2, 2009

A doctor I just talked to said that 90-95% of all flu cases they are seeing now are H1N1.

Since it's not "flu season", almost every flu everyone is getting is actually H1N1.

So it was very, very likely H1N1... making the vaccine unnecessary. But it won't hurt, either. ODiV's bolded part is exactly right. I
posted by rokusan at 3:57 PM on November 2, 2009

"To date, the virus is behaving the same around the world; it has not mutated genetically or changed the way it spreads." -- NPR

(Next year may be a different story, though.)
posted by dhartung at 9:53 PM on November 2, 2009

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