Yesterday, we published an important paper on what Americans need to know about the Swine Flu. The study mentioned how the availability of vaccines will affect the spread of the disease. Vaccines are made up of dead or weakened viruses. They stimulate the body’s immune system to fight off the disease. Since viruses can mutate from year, flu vaccines have to be crafted each year to deal with the disease. Initially, developers thought a vaccine for swine flu would require two shots, twelve weeks apart. Since most don’t expect vaccines to be ready till October, it would be late February (after the flu season peaks) before people had any protection.
Now there is news today that there may be a vaccine that works after one dose and provides full protection in a few weeks. Still, vaccines may not be the full answer to swine flu this year. First, the vaccines have to be approved for use. Second, there is the question of how much will be available and when it will be available. Third, while initial trails show these vaccines are fine for healthy adults, further testing is required to ensure they are safe people with less robust immune systems like children, pregnant women, and folks suffering from illnesses or medical conditions that depress the immune system.
So here is what people should do. Definitely, get the seasonal flu vaccine. When the swine flu vaccine becomes available follow the guidelines set out by public health officials on who should get vaccinated and when.
Most important, adopt the behaviors that keep flu from spreading. Commons sense things like frequently and thoroughly washing hands….and staying home if you are sick. The CDC has some great important suggestions to follow. If you are an employer also give some thought to what you are going to do if you have more the usual number of employees, service providers, and customers out sick. The Chamber of Commerce offers some practical ideas.
The greatest enemies during this flu season are fear, ignorance, and panic. Defeating them requires just a little preparation and a strong dose of common sense.