Unless you plan on holding your breath for the next 6 months, the best way to avoid getting the flu is to get vaccinated. In healthy adults, the vaccine provides up to 90% protection from getting the flu. Even in years where the vaccine was not a perfect match for the circulating influenza strains, partial immunity helps lessen the severity of infection.
Annual Seasonal Flu Vaccine– The 2009-2010 seasonal flu vaccine should be available in mid-September 2009 and will be free of charge to all MUSC students. Watch for emails that will tell you when it will be offered. Almost all seasonal influenza A (H1N1) strains currently circulating globally are resistant to Oseltamivir (Tamiflu). Because the usual anti-viral medication (Tamiflu) will not be effective against the seasonal influenza A (H1N1) strain this year, it is especially important to receive the annual seasonal influenza vaccine. The majority of adults will develop antibody protection against the anticipated seasonal influenza viruses within 2 weeks after vaccination. For optimal protection against the seasonal flu, it is recommended to receive the vaccine in October/November, before peak flu season hits later in the winter.
Novel H1N1 Vaccine– It is anticipated that the vaccine against the novel H1N1 virus will be released in limited supply this October/November 2009. These vaccines are being produced using methods similar to those used for seasonal influenza vaccines. Licensure of vaccines against novel influenza A (H1N1) virus will be based on the same licensure standards used for seasonal influenza vaccines, as is done routinely each year when strains are changed in the seasonal vaccine. Therefore it is anticipated that the novel H1N1 vaccine will have the same excellent safety profile as the seasonal flu vaccine.
Because most persons have no pre-existing antibodies to the novel H1N1 virus, it may require two vaccinations given one month apart to achieve protective immunity. The seasonal flu vaccine does not produce any cross-reacting antibodies that protect against the novel H1N1 strain.
This novel H1N1 virus has disproportionately affected children and young adults (age 5-24 yrs). The severity has been comparable to the seasonal flu in healthy adults, but it has caused more complicated illness and death in children < 5 years of age and in persons with chronic medical and immunosuppressed conditions.
When the H1N1vaccine is released this fall, priority groups to receive the initial supply include:
Persons who live with or provide care for infants aged <6 months (e.g., parents, siblings, and daycare providers)
Health-care and emergency medical services personnel
Persons aged 6 months–24 years
Persons aged 25–64 years who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications.