Wednesday, April 17, 2024

GUEST BLOGGER SERIES: Ana Rodriguez-Correa "Protect yourself and your loved ones from the Seasonal Flu and 2009 H1N1 Flu"

If you have ever had the flu, you know it can knock you out—with members of your family, friends, and co-workers not far behind. This season, flu may pack more of a punch than usual because of the new 2009 H1N1 flu virus (sometimes called “swine flu”). It’s more important than ever to get your facts straight about flu—and the vaccines available to prevent flu.

According to the latest findings of the CDC’s 2008 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), influenza vaccination among those aged 65 and older were 51.2 percent for Hispanics compared to 69.4 percent for Caucasians. Vaccination is the safest and best protection against the flu, according to the CDC. Many ethnic communities, especially Hispanic seniors, are among the groups at high risk for flu-related complications because they often suffer from chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. 

 “People who do not get vaccinated are taking two risks: they are placing themselves at risk for the flu, including a potentially long and serious illness, and second, if they get sick, they are also placing their close contacts at risk for influenza,” says Dr. Anne Schuchat, Assistant Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service and CDC’s Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

The CDC expects that regular seasonal flu viruses will cause illness as well and recommends a yearly seasonal flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against seasonal influenza. A separate vaccine has been made to protect against 2009 H1N1 flu since this new virus was detected after production of the seasonal flu vaccine had already begun. The H1N1 flu vaccine is produced in the same way as seasonal flu vaccine.

It’s important to realize that influenza vaccine cannot give you the flu. Why? Because the injected flu shot contains inactivated (killed) viruses, and the nasal spray contains attenuated (weakened) viruses and cannot cause flu illness. If you get the flu soon after getting the flu vaccine, it means that you may have been exposed to the virus shortly before getting vaccinated or during the two-week period it takes the body to gain protection after getting vaccinated, or you are sick with a non-flu respiratory virus that has similar symptoms of the flu.

You can get vaccinated with either a flu shot (for people six months and older) or a nasal spray vaccine (for healthy people 2 years through 49 years of age who are not pregnant). The nasal spray vaccine, available for both seasonal and 2009 H1N1 influenza, is a good option for those who may have a fear of needles. Flu vaccines are very safe and closely monitored for any potential side effects.

While adults only need one dose of seasonal flu vaccine and 2009 H1N1 vaccine, children 9 years of age and younger will need two doses of the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine to be fully protected.  Children 2 years up to 8 years of age will need two doses of seasonal vaccine as well if they have never received the seasonal flu vaccine before.

“Flu can be especially serious for babies, young children, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic medical conditions, and seniors, who are at high risk of flu-related complications or death,” says Dr. Schuchat, “Influenza—whether seasonal or 2009 H1N1—is not a disease to be taken lightly.”

Both 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu viruses are thought to spread mostly from person to person through the coughs and sneezes of people who are sick with flu. You can also get sick by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching your eyes, mouth or nose. Make sure to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands often with soap and water. It’s also smart to avoid close contact with people who are sick.

For people who are very sick from flu and are hospitalized or people who are sick with flu symptoms and are at increased risk for serious flu complications, antiviral drugs are available and can help make illness milder and shorten the time sick. For treatment, antiviral drugs work best if started within the first 2 days of symptoms.

So protect yourself and your loved ones by following the CDC recommended three-step approach: vaccination; everyday preventive actions; and the correct use of antiviral drugs.

For more information about the flu and where to find the vaccine, visit,, or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636). For information in Spanish, visit

Ana Rodriguez works with AED as a project manager.  Prior to joining AED she served at Consumers Union,  directing the program Best Buy Drugs™.  Ana is a graduate of Boston University where she received a Masters in Counseling Psychology and from University of Maryland University College where she received a Master in Science Management.  Ana was born and raised in Puerto Rico.


  1. This is a great post. Thanks. I was afraid to get a flu and H1n1 shot because of the risks. I will bring my daughters to get a shot now. I know my 6 year old will enjoy the nasal spray over a needle.