There have been 16 confirmed cases of H1N1 (swine) flu reported in the 10-county Northeast Georgia Health District, according to public health officials.
Louise H. Kudon, PhD, CHASE (Community Health Assessment, Surveillance and Epidemiology) director told county board of health members recently that most of those cases have been “very mild,” and he suspects that the actual number of those who’ve contracted this strain of influenza is much higher; it’s just that many haven’t been sick enough to seek medical care.
“This is nothing to panic about – but it is something to be prepared for,” Kudon said.
Health officials noted that that there will be uniform releases of information to school systems from the NE Health District so that school officials will all get flu information at the same time.
Tony Huff, emergency preparedness coordinator for the Northeast Health District, who oversees each county’s pandemic flu planning committee said Madison County’s committee is well-prepared for a flu outbreak.
“This (county’s) committee is the least stressful (for me) out of all 10 (counties),” Huff told the board. “They’re on the ball and ready to respond.”
Huff said his department would be called into service in the event that a lot of H1N1 vaccine is needed at one time, though he doesn’t expect that to happen.
FLU VACCINE AVAILABILITY
Seasonal flu vaccines should become available in health departments and other locations by the end of this month, Huff said, which is about a month earlier than usual. He expects the new H1N1 vaccine, which will be offered in two shots 21 to 28 days apart, to be available in this area in mid-October.
“Clinical trials are going on now,” Huff noted.
The NE Health District should receive 185,000 initial doses of the vaccine, with 120 million distributed nationwide.
“This should be more than enough to vaccinate the first five tiers (those targeted as most at-risk),” Huff said, adding that more vaccine should become available in the following month or two.
“I anticipate us having enough vaccine for all who want one,” Huff said.
Health officials are not sure if public health departments will be the sole initial provider of the vaccine. And, at this point, Huff said there are no plans now to go into schools for mass vaccinations.
“We want parents to bring their children to receive the vaccine,” he said, but he added that there are still questions to be answered and that much will depend on the spread and severity of the virus.
While the vaccinations will be free, there will be an administration fee of $9 - $25, Huff noted.
Smith said that seasonal flu shots will be $25 each, the same as last year.
“This is a new kind of flu, the last ‘swine flu’ outbreak occurred in the 1960s,” Kudon said.
The “regular” flu virus kills about 30,000 people in the U.S. each season, which is about one percent of those who are infected, Kudon said, whereas the H1N1 virus has about a .5 percent mortality rate.
But one problem as the U.S. enters flu season this year could be the population’s low immunity to the H1N1 strain, which may cause a greater number to get sick, causing school and businesses to close out of fear.
“And of course, the more people who get sick, the greater the mortality rate will naturally be,” he said.
Zach, there was a benefit bike ride and
bar-b-q this past saturday to raise money for a former military officer and madison county deputy sheriff. We raised money for him to have a double lung transplant. Just wondering why there has not been one word or picture about this benefit in this paper.. It sure would beat some of the other non-sense that's in this paper......