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CDC panel recommends H1N1 vaccine for health care workers

Atlanta—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices announced July 29 that it is recommending that influenza A (H1N1) vaccine be prioritized for five key populations when the vaccine becomes available—possibly in October.

The H1N1 virus was first detected in the United States in April, and has since spread to 70 countries and infected more than 134,000 worldwide. In the U.S. the virus has infected more than 43,000 people, resulting in 302 deaths.

On June 11, the World Health Organization upgraded the worldwide pandemic level to 6, but says it believes the "the overall severity of the influenza pandemic to be moderate."

For now, the CDC advisory committee is recommending that vaccination efforts focus on these five groups, which account for 159 million people in the U.S.:

  • pregnant women;
  • people who live with or care for children younger than age 6 months;
  • health care and emergency services personnel;
  • persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age;
  • people from ages 25 through 64 years who are at higher risk for novel H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

The CDC believes many health care workers are at risk for exposure to and possible transmission of H1N1 because of their exposure and contact with possibly infected patients. To protect workers, the H1N1 vaccine is an essential part of prevention and infection control, according to recommendations by the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and the CDC Hospital Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee.

The committee said it does not expect a shortage of the vaccine, but did say that it initially would be available in limited quantities. The committee also stressed that people over the age of 65 receive the seasonal vaccine as soon as it is available. The CDC said current studies indicate the risk for infection among persons age 65 or older is less than the risk for younger age groups.

The H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine but is intended to be used in addition to seasonal flu vaccine to protect people. As part of its outreach effort to the profession on the H1N1 influenza virus (swine flu), the ADA has posted a dental-specific fact page for dentists and dental team members based on information from the CDC.

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