What do I need to know before receiving the H1N1 Flu Vaccine?

Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a respiratory infection that is caused by a virus. The H1N1 flu virus is new, so people have little or no natural immunity to it. The H1N1 flu virus spread quickly around the world and in June 2009, the World Health Organization declared an influenza pandemic.

The flu is transmitted from person to person via the respiratory route. Coughs and sneezes release the germs into the air where they can be breathed in by others. Germs can also rest on hard surfaces like counters and doorknobs, where they can be picked up on hands and transmitted to the respiratory system when someone touches their mouth and/or nose.

Symptoms almost always include the sudden onset of cough and fever, commonly include fatigue, muscle aches, sore throat, headache, runny nose and decreased appetite, and sometimes include nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. People of any age can get the flu. Most people are sick for two to seven days, although the cough may last for weeks. The flu can sometimes lead to serious complications, including pneumonia, hospitalization, and even death.

Groups at risk of complications from the H1N1 flu virus include children under five years of age, especially those less than two years old; women who are pregnant; and people with chronic conditions such as heart/liver/kidney disease, blood disorders, diabetes, severe obesity, asthma, chronic lung disease, people with compromised immune systems, and those with neurological disorders.