Vaccination and prevention

The pandemic is expected to peak by mid-winter in the Northern hemisphere. The CDC recommended that initial vaccine doses should go to priority groups such as as pregnant women, people who live with or care for babies under six months old, children six months to four years old and health-care workers. In the UK, the NHS recommended vaccine priority go to people over six months old who were clinically at risk for seasonal flu, pregnant women, and households of people with compromised immunity.

Although it was initially thought that two injections would be required, clinical trials showed that the new vaccine protects adults “with only one dose instead of two”, and so the limited vaccine supplies would go twice as far as had been predicted. Costs would also be lowered by having a “more efficient vaccine.” For children under the age of 10, two administrations of the vaccine, spaced 21 days apart, are recommended. The seasonal flu will still require a separate vaccination.

Health officials worldwide were also concerned the virus was new and could easily mutate and become more virulent, even though most flu symptoms were mild and lasted only a few days without treatment. Officials also urged communities, businesses and individuals to make contingency plans for possible scholl closures, multiple employee absences for illness, surges of patients in hospitals and other effects of potentially widespread outbreaks.

To combat the virus, the WHO and the US government geared up for a massive vaccination campaign in late 2009, one not seen since Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine in 1955.

The Mayo Clinic suggested personal measures to avoid seasonal flu infection were applicable to the 2009 pandemic: vaccination when available, thorough and frequent had-washing, a balanced diet with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein, sufficient sleep, regular exercise, and avoiding crowds. Smoking raises the risk of contracting influenza, as well as producing more severe disease symptoms. The leading health agencies stressed that eating properly cooked pork or other food products derived from pigs would not cause flu.

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