Local News

Feds study H1N1 flu vaccine dose for asthmatics

Posted October 21, 2009 6:47 p.m. EDT
Updated October 21, 2009 7:07 p.m. EDT

— The federal government has begun a study of how much H1N1 flu vaccine to give to people with asthma.

Asthma sufferers are considered a group at higher risk of complications from the H1N1 virus but medication taken by many asthmatics may interfere with the vaccine. Dr. Serpil Erzurum, the study coordinator at the Cleveland Clinic, says the goal is to find the right dosage for them.

Doctors vaccinated the Clinic's first participant in the research on Monday.

The study also is being conducted at Emory University in Atlanta; the University of Pittsburgh Asthma Institute; the University of Virginia; the University of Wisconsin; Wake Forest University; and Washington University in St. Louis.

More than 20 million Americans suffer from asthma, and 26 percent of the 1400 adults hospitalized with H1N1 had asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another reason asthma sufferers are considered to be at a higher risk is that they can get inflammation in their airways more easily and fluid and mucus can build up in the lungs.

Children with asthma, like 4-year-old Ahmad Shah, are also vulnerable.

Shah almost died from H1N1 and was in the intensive care unit at UNC Hospitals for 10 days, said Dr. Keith Kocis, a pediatric critical care physician there.

Kocis said Shah's case is a reminder of how dangerous H1N1 can be for young children with health problems. Since the onset of the virus, he said UNC Hospitals has seen three cases in children who were considered high-risk. Two died.

"We are seeing severe forms," Kocis said. "Fortunately, there's not a lot of them, but when it affects the child, it's certainly very, very serious."