I ended up spending a significant portion of the last several days down with something flu-like. (It included a fever and the attendant aches, chills, and sweats, as well as the upper respiratory drowning-in-my-own-mucus symptoms.)
I did not drag my ailing butt out of bed to go to the doctor and have my flu-like thing characterized. (In part, this is because I knew it would pass in a few days. In part, it was because I managed to tweak a muscle in my right side by sneezing hard and thus was unable to straighten up or be as mobile as I normally am. Someday, I swear, I am going to figure out how to sneeze more ergonomically.)
As such, I don’t know if what I had was the cool new H1N1 flu that’s been going around locally or something else.
So, here’s the question for those more plugged into public health than I am: Should I still get the novel H1N1 vaccine? (Thanks to ERV for pointing out in the comments that the “novel” is important in distinguishing the H1N1 virus that causes seasonal flu from the H1N1 virus causing the *new* swine flu.)
I’m thinking there are at least a few related questions that are relevant here. First, is there a foreseeable harm to a person from getting a vaccine against a virus she’s already had? Or, would it just be wasteful of scarce vaccine? (I’m assuming that having been infected with novel H1N1, a body would be protected from being infected a second time on account of that body’s immune system now has the virus’s number. Unless, of course, the virus mutates.)
After the flu has passed, is there a reasonable way to test (maybe by looking at antibodies) whether the virus that caused that flu was the new H1N1? Would it be a good idea to get such a test before getting the novel H1N1 vaccine (so as not to use a dose of vaccine that would do more good for someone else)? What would the cost of such a test be relative to the cost of getting a novel H1N1 flu shot?
This last question has me wondering about whether the cost structures of testing and vaccinations are set up in a way that incentivizes efficient use of our somewhat scarce medical resources. Maybe, as flu epidemics and heath care reform are at the front of people’s minds, this is something we should be thinking about.