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Vaccine Arrives as Flu Spreads

Vaccine Arrives as Flu Spreads

Mary Brophy Marcus | USA TODAY via YellowBrix

October 06, 2009

The first doses of swine flu vaccine arrived Monday as more than half the USA reported widespread flu cases.

“The level of activity we’re seeing for this time of year is really unusual,” said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “We just really don’t see the level of activity we’re seeing.”

The high number of cases, however, is not a predictor of how severe this flu season will be, he said.

“Flu is unpredictable, and unfortunately we can’t say one way or the other that what we are seeing now is a harbinger of what’s to come,” Skinner said.

According to the CDC’s latest report, which tracked influenza cases through the week of Sept. 26, 27 states across the nation report widespread cases, and 99% of flu cases being reported were H1N1-related.

In Santa Clara (Calif.) County, 159 hospitalizations and nine deaths have been linked to H1N1, said Joy Alexiou, a public information officer for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department in San Jose.

“Last week, our board of supervisors declared a local state of emergency,” Alexiou said. The action allows additional local money to funnel toward containing H1N1.

Cameron Wolfe of Duke Health System in Durham, N.C., an expert in infectious diseases, said the rates of patients coming in with flu-like symptoms have increased dramatically since the end of August.

“In September, we’re already seeing greater rates of influenza than we’ve seen in November and December in previous years. Certainly our hope is that it will peak sooner and dip sooner,” Wolfe said.

The CDC’s Skinner said there was no indication that the H1N1 virus has hit its peak.

The CDC has reported that 600,000 doses of nasal FluMist were being shipped this week. A total of 250 million doses — in both spray and injectable form — of the H1N1 vaccine are expected by flu season’s end.

Indiana health officials reported receiving the state’s first doses of the swine flu vaccine Monday. In Indianapolis, emergency medical technician Josh Hendrick was among the 100 doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to receive it. “Some people had some concerns, but I am faithful that it’s going to work,” he said. “It’s important to protect ourselves in order to protect the community.”

Thousands of doctors, hospitals, clinics and health departments across the USA have pre-registered to receive the vaccine. Some states are asking their residents to be patient.

“We’ve been told that we’ll have about 15 million doses for Texas after all is said and done, but it won’t be available all at once,” David Lakey, commissioner of the Department of State Health Services, said in a press statement.

Skinner recommends that people who want the vaccine contact their health care providers with questions instead of calling their state health departments.

Will it be too late to get the vaccine if your doctor’s office doesn’t receive supplies for weeks to come?

“I don’t think so,” said Wolfe, who points out that the flu season will last for months. “It’s coming out at the right time.”

Contributing: Tom Spalding, The Indianapolis Star

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