August 07, 2009

H1N1 (Swine) Flu Advisory for People with Lupus

This notice will be updated as additional details are received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and as determined by the Lupus Foundation of America’s Medical-Scientific Advisory Council. Please check this notice periodically until this health issue has passed.

The Lupus Foundation of America (LFA) is aware of the concern that people with lupus may have about the recent outbreak of the H1N1 (Swine) Flu. Please know the LFA is monitoring the situation and consulting with our National Medical-Scientific Advisory Council on the possible impact of this virus on people with lupus.

Currently, clinical trials for a potential H1N1 vaccine are set to start around August 10th. If early evidence suggests the vaccine is safe, similar trials would be started in children. Results are expected in early September. The clinical trials are using an inactive vaccine which should be safe for people with autoimmune diseases. Clinical trials will be done over weeks instead of months or longer, with the goal of assessing the vaccine’s safety in time to approve release of the H1N1 vaccine in the fall, before the virus is likely to spread widely in the general population.

At this time, the precautionary recommendations for people with lupus are no different than for the general public. However, it is important to note that people with lupus are typically at increased risk for infections, particularly if they are taking medicines that suppress the immune system. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant about following the general precautions.

* Please remember that you should never discontinue medications used to treat your lupus without first consulting with your doctor.*

Below are simple steps people with lupus and their family members can take to lessen the likelihood of contracting Swine Flu.
  • Avoid individuals and family members who are ill and have symptoms such as a fever (over 100º F), nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Specifically, you should limit or avoid face-to-face and personal contact (i.e. hugging, shaking hands, etc.).
  • Wash your hands frequently. Public surfaces, including public bathrooms, store countertops, and restaurants can retain the H1N1 virus. Use soapy water for at least 15 seconds, or an alcohol based wipe when out in public.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Use the crook of your arm to shield coughs and sneezing. Do not use your hands or handkerchiefs as they carry moisture that spread viruses.
  • Stay home from work or school if you are sick.
While the symptoms of Swine Flu may vary from person to person, according to the World Health Organization, common symptoms include: high fever, cough, and sore throat, symptoms similar to typical influenza, with some patients experiencing diarrhea and vomiting. The cases can rapidly progress to severe and unusual pneumonia.

People with lupus who have a confirmed diagnosis of the Swine Flu can receive treatment with appropriate anti-virals, such as Tamiflu or Relenza. To date, there have not been any major drug interactions between typical lupus medications and to anti-virals effective in treating the Swine Flu.

To receive the latest information and guidelines on Swine Flu, go to

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