Clinical trials are underway to test the first vaccine against H1N1 flu. So far, things look good, and health officials expect the first batches of vaccine for public distribution in mid-October. They expect some delays, with the full order of vaccine not delivered until December, and it’s possible that people will be lining up to get their dose.
Most of our bodies don’t know how to battle H1N1, which means it has the potential to make lots more people sick than a seasonal flu. “It sort of emerged out of a genetic shuffle,” explains Dennis Woo, M.D., former chair of the department of pediatrics at UCLA Medical Center, adding that H1N1 has components of four different viruses – one that infects birds, one that infects people and two that infect swine.
Another thing that makes H1N1 scary is the word “pandemic,” which the World Health Organization declared June 11. Maureen Lichtveld, M.D., who heads up the Flu Emergency Task Force at Tulane University, explains that there are three conditions necessary to create a pandemic.
- Antigen shift creates a virus that is new to humans.
- The virus infects humans and causes serious disease.
- The virus transmits from human to human (is contagious) and is sustained, meaning that it moves from place to place, country to country.
When H1N1 first appeared back in April, experts knew it had the potential to become pandemic, but didn’t know exactly how severe its impact might be. Thus far, while it has caused deaths, “it’s nowhere near what we feared might happen,” says Jim Sears, M.D., a pediatrician with the renowned Sears family and co-host of “The Doctors” television show. Read on …