H1N1 vaccine expected to arrive soon

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By Stephen Lega

Two cases of H1N1 have been confirmed in Marion County, according to the Kentucky Department of Health.

To date, 512 cases of H1N1, also known as swine flu, have been confirmed in Kentucky, and four deaths have been attributed to this strain of influenza virus.

Limited quantities of a nasal spray H1N1 vaccine were sent to some Kentucky communities earlier this month.

Jennifer Osborne, the senior health educator at the Marion County Health Department, wrote in an email Monday that no H1N1 vaccine had yet arrived in the county, although approximately 100 doses of the nasal mist are expected to arrive this week.

“It will be very limited at first and will be the nasal mist which is not recommended for some individuals,” Osborne wrote. “The vaccine will be available at the health department and some physician offices.”

She added that not every physician’s office will be given H1N1 vaccines, so patients should contact their physicians to find out if they are administering the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control has recommended that certain groups of people should receive priority in receiving the vaccine because they may be at greater risk of developing complications if they contract the disease.

Those groups are health care and emergency service workers, pregnant women, people who care for children who are six months old or younger, people six months to 24 years old (especially if they have chronic health problems) and people 25 to 64 years old who have chronic health problems.

Osborne noted that the H1N1 will be administered according to those recommendations, with health care workers receiving the H1N1 vaccine first.

More H1N1 vaccine is expected to become available later this month or in early November, according to the

KDH. According to Osborne, the local health department has not yet been told when or how much vaccine it will receive as more becomes available.

“We will do our best to publicize it as much as possible when vaccine is available,” she wrote.

The symptoms of H1N1 are a sudden onset of illness, a fever higher than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, cough, headache, sore throat, stuffy nose, muscle aches, feeling of weakness, and diarrhea and vomiting.

Anyone who experiences warning signs of H1N1 is encouraged to seek medical care. The warning signs include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, and severe or persistent vomiting.

Likewise, the Kentucky Department of Health recommends that anyone who contracts either seasonal flu or the H1N1 virus should take the following precautions:

- If you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people as much as possible to keep from spreading your illness to others.

- If you have a fever, difficulty breathing, a cough, body aches, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, you should talk with a health care provider by telephone. Your health care provider will determine whether testing or treatment is needed.

- Before visiting a health care setting, tell the provider about your symptoms.

- Do not travel or go to work or school while sick, and limit your contact with others as much as possible to help prevent the spread of illness. Stay home from work or school until you are feverfree for at least 24 hours.

Osborne added that citizens should be aware that the H1N1 vaccine does not protect against the seasonal flu, nor does the seasonal flu vaccine protect against H1N1.

The health department held a seasonal flu clinic last week at Centre Square, where 170 people were vaccinated.

Osborne added that limited amounts of seasonal flu vaccine are still available, although she encouraged people to contact their personal physicians about seasonal flu vaccines as well.

“It is unknown at this time whether more vaccine will be made available in the area,” she wrote.

In addition to taking steps to reduce the risk of spreading the flu (see below), Osborne also encouraged people to stay informed about the latest developments about the flu.

“We learn new things almost every day and we will continue to do our best in sharing that information with the public,” she wrote. “This flu season will be a learning experience for us all!”

Don’t spread the flu

The Kentucky Department of Public Health recommends the following steps to reduce the spread of both the seasonal and H1N1 strains of the flu virus:

- Wash your hands in warm, soapy water for 15 to 20 seconds — about the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

- Teach children good health habits.

- Cover your cough or sneeze.

- Stay at home if you are sick and contact your health care provider.

- Get a flu shot - you may need a seasonal flu shot and an H1N1 (swine flu) shot.

- Stay informed.

More information about H1N1 and seasonal flu is available online at healthalerts.ky.gov and flu.gov or by calling 1 (800) CDC-INFO.

Updates are also available on twitter by following KYHealthAlerts.