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What is the H1N1 flu?
The H1N1 flu (sometimes referred to as "swine flu") is a new strain of influenza virus. The virus spreads from person-to-person, in the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.
The symptoms of the H1N1 flu are similar to the symptoms of regular seasonal flu. These include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Diarrhea and vomiting may also be present in people who have been infected with the H1N1 flu virus.
Who should get the H1N1 flu vaccination?
Some groups of people have a higher risk of getting the H1N1 flu than others. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that the following groups get vaccinated as soon as they can:
- Pregnant women
- People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age
- Health care and emergency medical services personnel
- Persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years.
- People ages 25 through 64 years who are at risk due to chronic health disorders or weakened immune systems
- Healthy adults ages 25 through 64 year olds and adults 65 years and older should also be vaccinated as more vaccine becomes available.
Unlike the regular flu, people age 65 and older have a lower risk for getting the H1N1 flu. While people 65 and older are not included in the groups recommended to get the earliest doses of vaccine, they can get the H1N1 influenza vaccine as soon as the other groups have had the opportunity to be vaccinated.
If you are disabled or have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), you may be in one of the higher risk groups. Talk with your doctor about if and when to get the vaccine.
Is the H1N1 shot safe?
The H1N1 influenza vaccine is expected to have a similar safety profile as seasonal flu vaccines, which have a very good safety record. If side effects occur, they will likely be similar to those experienced following seasonal influenza vaccine. These include a little soreness and swelling at the site of the shot. A few people develop mild symptoms of the flu (about 5 to 10 percent).
How effective is the H1N1 shot in preventing the H1N1 flu?
A flu shot does an excellent job of protecting you from the flu, but it is not perfect. A few people will still get the flu after being immunized. However, they tend to be less sick than those who were not vaccinated.
Where can I get a flu shot?
Here are some options for getting a flu shot:
- Doctor's Office
- Health Departments
- Offices -- many offer flu shots for employees
Does Medicare cover the H1N1 flu shots?
Yes. Medicare will cover administration of the H1N1 flu shot. Your doctor or healthcare provider can't charge you for the H1N1 vaccine because they received the vaccine for free. If your doctor or health care provider accepts assignment, you pay nothing for the H1N1 vaccine's administration. The Medicare Part B deductible and coinsurance do not apply to the H1N1 vaccine or its administration.
Do I also need to get the seasonal flu vaccine?
Yes, you should still get the seasonal flu vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine is different from the H1N1 flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control encourages people to get both vaccines as they are different viruses.