Definition and Overview

Developed to address a 2009 pandemic, the swine flu shot is a set of vaccines that can safely and effectively provide protection against the AH1N1 influenza strain.

A common virus among the world’s pig population, swine flu is not always transmitted to humans. However, in the cases where successful transmission does occur, infected patients can suffer from a variety of symptoms like those in human influenza, such as:

  • General discomfort
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle pains
  • Sore throat
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Weakness
  • Severe headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Lack of appetite

The AH1N1 influenza strain is not transmitted directly from swine to humans; rather, it is transmitted from one individual to another through air-borne droplets. However, people who work closely with livestock and the by-products of the industry are especially susceptible to contracting the virus.

At present, there are two kinds of vaccines for swine flu: a flu shot, which is injected into the patient and contains three strains and a killed vaccine; and a nasal spray containing live attenuated influenza vaccine.

As of 2010, the World Health Organization has declared the pandemic to be over, but there are several thousand cases detected in the developing world as recent as March 2015.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Research shows that around thirty per cent of the human population is immune to the AH1N1 virus, which researchers believe is a result of prior exposure to similar virus strains in the past. People belonging to this slice of the population do not need a swine flu vaccine.

A swine flu shot is also not recommended for children under six months old and elderly patients, two segments of the population who might suffer from adverse side effects of the vaccine. Research shows, however, that individuals over 65 years old are naturally immune to this influenza strain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends swine flu shot to the following:

  • Pregnant women. An expecting mother has a higher risk of complications, which could adversely affect the fetus in her womb. The CDC believes that the protection provided by the swine flu shot to the pregnant woman can extend to her child, who cannot be given the shot until it is older.

  • Individuals who care for or have frequent contact with infants younger than six months old. Babies younger than six months old are at a high risk of contracting swine flu or human influenza, and people who take care of them are equally vulnerable.

  • Healthcare and emergency medical professionals. These individuals are constantly exposed to patients and potential carriers of the virus.

  • Schoolchildren. Young students are often in close contact with each other, which makes the spread of the virus easier.

  • People with health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the complications of swine flu and other influenza strains. This category includes patients with diabetes, a condition that suppresses the immune system (such as HIV, AIDS, or cancer, or taking medication that can suppress the immune system), and chronic diseases of the nerves and vital organs.

How is the Procedure Performed?

Children who are nine years old and below should receive two doses of the swine flu vaccine, while individuals ten to 64 years old should receive one dose. The swine flu itself can be administered by a qualified medical professional in a wide variety of locations.

Possible Risks and Complications

The vaccine is generally safe, but some people, including individuals with egg allergies, might experience adverse reactions. This is because eggs are a vital ingredient in developing and producing the vaccine.

Other risks and side effects include:

  • A sore arm (usually where the vaccine was injected)
  • Headaches
  • Fever
    References:

  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Safety of Influenza A(H1N1) 2009 Monovalent Vaccines”

  • National Health Service: “Swine Flu – Vaccine”
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