Swine flu vaccine get the facts

A new vaccine for the swine flu (H1N1) will be available this fall as the flu season begins, officials at the Department of Health and Human Services announced August 19.

On a teleconference with reporters to launch new web tools for employers on swine flu, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said the administration wants to encourage employers to adopt safe hygiene practices, flexible sick leave practices and alternative work styles, if possible, now to prevent the spread of swine flu or seasonal flu in the workplace.

A major concern for the administration is that workers who display flu-like symptoms should stay home for 3-5 days, even when taking anti-viral medications.

'It's important for employers to develop more accommodating, more flexible with respect to sick leave,' Locke said. Workers should not have to be so worried about losing their jobs when they stay home that they come to work and spread the flu. 'It's important for employers to know that it's in their economic self-interest to be as accommodating and as flexible as possible.'

If such practices are not adopted, Locke warned, whole workplaces could be forced to close if infections spread. He added that employers can find a tool kit that provides information on hygiene, vaccination and advice on alternative work styles at Flu.gov.

Deputy Director Toby Merlin, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Influenza Coordination Unit (CDC), explained that while the swine flu virus may not be more dangerous for most people than the seasonal flu, 'the swine flu is capable of infecting many more people as it passes through communities than regular seasonal influenza, because most people lack immunity to swine influenza.'

Health experts expect that children and younger adults are most susceptible to infection. The CDC advises that pregnant women, children and young adults between six months and 24 years of age, all health and child care workers, and adults with underlying medical conditions (e.g. asthma, neuro-muscular disease or heart disease), who may be adversely affected by exposure to the flu, should be vaccinated as soon as the vaccine because available this fall.

People concerned about vaccination issues should visit Flu.gov for more details or visit their health care provider.