Student Health Services
· If someone has the flu in my household, should I stay home, too?
Students and employees who are well but who have an ill family member at home with novel H1N1 flu can go to school as usual. They should monitor their health every day and stay home if they become ill. Students and employees who have an underlying medical condition or who are pregnant should call their health care provider for advice, because they might need to receive influenza antiviral drugs to prevent illness.
· Is the H1N1 vaccine developed and when will it be available? Will it be free?
The H1N1 influenza vaccine has been developed and should start becoming available in October. There is no charge for the vaccine, but providers may charge an administration fee. At this time, it is expected that this administration fee may be covered by health insurers.
· Are there any side effects to the H1N1 vaccine?
The side effects from 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine are expected to be similar to those from seasonal flu vaccines. The most common side effects following vaccination are expected to be mild, such as soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the vaccination site if the shot version of the vaccine was given. Some people might experience headache, muscle aches, fever, nausea and fainting.
If these problems occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and may last as long as 1-2 days. Like any medicines, vaccines can cause serious problems like severe allergic reactions. However life-threatening allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare. In 1976, an earlier type of swine flu vaccine was associated with cases of a severe paralytic illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) at a rate of approximately 1 case of GBS per 100,000 persons vaccinated. Some studies done since 1976 have shown a small risk of GBS in persons who received the seasonal influenza vaccine. This risk is estimated to be no more than 1 case of GBS per 1 million persons vaccinated. Since then, flu vaccines have not been clearly linked to GBS. GBS has a number of different causes, and GBS can occur in a person who has never received an influenza vaccine. The potential benefits of influenza vaccination in preventing serious illness, hospitalization, and death substantially outweigh these estimates of risk for vaccine-associated GBS.
In general, anyone who has a severe (life-threatening) allergy to eggs or to any other substance in the vaccine should not get the vaccine. People should always inform their immunization provider if they have any severe allergies, if they’ve ever had a severe allergic reaction following flu vaccination, or if they have ever had GBS.
· If I am pregnant, do I have to worry about contracting H1N1 flu?
Yes. A pregnant woman who gets any type of flu is at risk for serious complications and hospitalization. Pregnant women who are otherwise healthy have been severely impacted by the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus. In comparison to the general population, a greater proportion of pregnant women infected with the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus have been hospitalized. In addition, severe illness and death has occurred in pregnant women. Six percent of confirmed fatal 2009 H1N1 flu cases thus far have been in pregnant women while only about 1% of the general population is pregnant. While hand washing, staying away from ill people, and other steps can help to protect pregnant women from influenza, vaccination is the single best way to protect against the flu.
· If my child has a fever and appears to have the flu, do they need to see a doctor?
It is expected that most people will recover without needing medical care. If your child has severe illness, is at high risk for flu complications, or if you have any questions or concerns, contact your child’s health care provider immediately or seek medical care.
· Should I take antivirals if I have the flu or someone in my family has the flu?
Treatment with the antivirals oseltamivir (Tamiflu) or zanamivir (Relenza) is recommended for all persons with suspected or confirmed influenza who have breathing difficulties or require hospitalization. It is also generally recommended for persons with suspected or confirmed influenza who are at higher risk for complications (children younger than 5 years old, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, persons with certain chronic medical or immunosuppressive conditions, and persons younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy).
Persons who are not at higher risk for complications or do not have severe influenza requiring hospitalization generally do not require antiviral medications for treatment or for prevention of the flu.
Antivirals can be considered in a healthy person who came in close contact with a person with confirmed, probable, or suspected 2009 H1N1 or seasonal influenza during that person’s infectious period if the exposure occurred within the previous 48 hours and the person is at higher risk for complications of influenza or is a health care professional, public health worker, or first responder.
· Will there be a vaccine that is preservative-free for H1N1?
The 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccines that FDA is licensing (approving) will be manufactured in several formulations. Some will come in multi-dose vials and will contain thimerosal as a preservative. Multi-dose vials of seasonal influenza vaccine also contain thimerosal to prevent potential contamination after the vial is opened.
Some vaccine manufacturers will be producing 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine in single-dose units, which will not require the use of thimerosal as a preservative. In addition, the live-attenuated version of the vaccine, which is administered through the nose as a spray, is produced in single-units and will not contain thimerosal.
· What types of things should you have on hand at home in case both parents are sick at the same time with the flu?
The most important thing is to have an emergency plan in place before the parents get sick. Key components of an emergency plan include having on hand extra food and supplies, including both prescribed and over the counter medications (including pain relievers, stomach remedies, cough and cold medicines, fluids with electrolytes, and vitamins), teaching family members on ways to limit the spread of germs and prevent infection on hand, and a plan for who might take care of the children until the parents feel better. More information is available online at www.pandemicflu.gov/individual.
· Will I be notified if there is a suspected or confirmed case of H1N1 influenza in my child’s school?
Just as with the seasonal flu each year, it is expected that there will be children with H1N1 influenza in our schools. The Loudoun County Public School system has been working closely with the Health Department on how best to keep parents informed about steps they and their children can take to reduce the number of flu cases, including hand and respiratory hygiene and staying home when sick. Decisions as to whether to notify parents in response to individual cases of the flu in a school are made on a case by case basis in consultation with the Health Department.
· Are students who are moderately or severely disabled at higher risk if they get the flu?
All students are considered at increased risk of complications from the flu. This risk is further increased in those with chronic breathing (including asthma), heart, kidney, liver, blood (including sickle cell disease), neurologic (including mental retardation, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy, neuromuscular, or metabolic disorders (including diabetes mellitus)) conditions, those with suppressed immune systems and those who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy, because of an increased risk for Reye syndrome.
· Can someone have the virus more than one time?
It is not expected that a person would get sick from the H1N1 influenza virus more than one time in a season. That said, the large majority of people with flu-like symptoms will never be tested specifically for H1N1 and so will not know for sure whether they had the flu and, if so, the specific strain. Consequently, vaccination against the seasonal and H1N1 flu viruses and taking common sense safety measures are critical, whether or not a person believes they had the flu.
Information current as of September 16, 2009
Last Modified on April 28, 2010