Posted by: tohanley on 04/28/2009 09:10:59
Updated by: tohanley on 08/20/2009 13:43:58
Expires: 12/31/2009 00:00:00
UPCOMING FLU SEASON
This fall, as always, there will be flu vaccine clinics throughout Cape Ann. However, there is one element which complicates this flu season and that is the presence of the novel H1N1 virus. If H1N1 virus had appeared earlier than April, it would have been included as one strain in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine. However, since it appeared later in the spring, a separate vaccine had to be produced. So this year we will have two different sets of vaccines-Seasonal Flu Vaccine and H1N1 Flu Vaccine.
It is important to note that while the seasonal influenza won’t protect you from the new H1N1 flu, it WILL protect you from the seasonal flu — which will likely be circulating at the same time that H1N1 flu is circulating. This year, seasonal flu vaccine will be available early in the fall (September and October) and may even be available by the end of August. Health Departments throughout Cape Ann will be planning large coordinated vaccine clinics. In addition, seasonal flu vaccine will be offered in Gloucester Public Schools.
Vaccination is recommended for all persons who wish to reduce the likelihood of their becoming ill with influenza or transmitting influenza to others should they become infected, however it is especially recommended for all children 6 months – 18 years, persons with chronic health conditions, immunosuppressed, receiving long-term aspirin therapy, residents of long-term care facilities, and those who will be pregnant during flu season.
Alternatively, the H1N1 vaccine is taking a little longer to be produced and may not be available until mid-October. Two doses of the H1N1 vaccine (administered 3-4 weeks apart) will be recommended for full immunity. The Centers for Disease Control state that there will be plenty of H1N1 vaccine for all who want it but the initial shipments should be prioritized for the following groups who have been shown to be at highest risk from complications of this novel flu virus. Those groups are pregnant women, household and caregiver contacts of children younger than 6 months, health care and emergency medical services personnel, children 6 months through 24 years, and persons 25 years through 64 years with medical conditions associated with higher risk conditions.
Once the H1N1 vaccine is received, Health Departments will partner with doctor’s offices, schools, and day care centers to make sure high risk individuals are offered the vaccine. In addition, large clinics will be held throughout Cape Ann for other eligible residents. Stay tuned to the city website http://www.ci.gloucester.ma.us for dates and times of scheduled seasonal flu clinics as well as H1N1 flu clinics. Contact the Health Department for more information (978) 281-9771.
Flu outbreaks evolve in unpredictable ways; it is impossible to know whether this outbreak will decrease, remain the same, or grow in coming weeks, and whether the illness will remain at its current severity which, on the whole has been relatively mild.
The following groups are at risk from complications of H1N1 and should contact their provider if they experience the signs and symptoms of flu-like illness (fever, cough, sore throat, body aches):
- children < 2 years old
- persons > 65 years old
- adults and children who have immunosuppression
- pregnant women
- children and adolescents (less than 18 years) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy who might be at risk for experiencing Reye syndrome after influenza virus infection
Because there is no vaccine for H1N1 influenza, public health officials remind all Massachusetts residents to continue taking simple steps to keep themselves and others healthy.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your cough with a tissue or cough into your inner elbow and not into your hands.
- If you are sick stay home from work and if your child is sick keep them home from school or daycare for 7 days, or 24 hours after symptoms go away-whichever is longer. Click here for a letter to parents about H1N1.
New H1N1 recommendations are being made daily. For the most updated information please visit:
- Click here for a fact sheet on H1N1.
- Learn how to take care of a sick person at home. Click here for guidance
- Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen or you have trouble breathing. Your doctor may decide to treat any high risk household contacts that may put them at increased risk of complications of flu.
- Most people who come down with symptoms of H1N1 will not need to be tested or treated.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Click here for an article and video demonstration.
- Practice good “cough etiquette” by coughing or sneezing into a tissue, or into your elbow instead of into your hands.
The Gloucester Health Department will continue to work with clinicians, schools, businesses, and the public to prevent severe disease, communicate updated information and plan for the future. One important thing that you can do for your own family is to fill out a Family Disaster Plan. Click here for the plan. Businesses should also think about a preparedness plan. Click here for guidance.
If you have additional questions or would like to speak with someone about H1N1 please call the Gloucester Health Department’s new flu line (978) 282-8080 or MDPH’s flu line 2-1-1. If you need to speak with the Public Health Nurse please call (978) 281-9771.