The medical director of the state health department says some well-meaning Iowa doctors are spreading fear and misinformation to their patients about the H1N1 flu. Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa’s chief epidemiologist, says she’s hearing reports some physicians are saying the nasal spray vaccine can infect people, giving them H1N1, but that’s just not the case.
“We have seen people who get a stuffy nose for a day or two, because the virus is alive and it does actually replicate a little bit,” Dr. Quinlisk says. “I’ve gotten them in the past and certainly many other people, but the bottom line is, it doesn’t give you H1N1.” Quinlisk says she’s “concerned” these reports are coming in, after all the attention this flu outbreak has received over the months.
She’s heard some Iowa doctors go so far as to recommend people not get the nasal vaccine. She notes, a certain percentage of people may feel some negative effects from the vaccine, but it absolutely won’t be the full-blown flu.”You certainly are not going to have the high fever, the aches and pains, the muscle trouble, the fatigue that puts you in bed, no,” Quinlisk says.
“That can’t happen because that virus is so attenuated, or weakened, that it can’t do that.” She says clinics and doctor’s offices need to follow strict guidelines in administering the flu vaccines, paying close attention to the order in which steps are taken, or a “false positive” will be returned.
Quinlisk says, “If you get this live nasal spray vaccine and then somebody takes a nasal swab of you and sends it off to the lab, the laboratory cannot distinguish between the virus that’s in the vaccine and the H1N1 virus unless you do very specific DNA tests on it.” She says it’s not her role to “scold” doctors who don’t have their facts straight, but Quinlisk encourages doctors — and anyone else — with questions about this sort of health issue, to call the Iowa Department of Public Health.
“Doctors out there are having to be experts on so many different things,” she says, “that it is very difficult sometimes to keep up on certain minor details.” A state health department report says 40 Iowans died during 2009 from H1N1 and another 700 were hospitalized by it. For more details, visit “www.idph.state.ia.us/h1n1“.