Whidbey gets ready for swine flu season

Nurse manager Debbie Lacy administers a vaccination in the leg to 2-year-old Joseph Burks. - Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times
Nurse manager Debbie Lacy administers a vaccination in the leg to 2-year-old Joseph Burks.
— image credit: Jenny Manning/Whidbey News-Times

Soak up the sun while it’s still warm; summer vacation’s coming to a close and flu season is just a few calendar pages away.

This year’s flu season may be a doozy. In addition to the seasonal bug, health officials predict a return outbreak of the H1N1 virus, also called swine flu.

“It’s likely that more people will come down with the flu this season than in the past,” said Lance Gibbon, Oak Harbor School District assistant superintendent.

Incoming students must have updated immunization records before the start of school, Gibbon said, adding that parents can expect to see additional information about flu prevention in their children’s school registration packets.

“We’re doing whatever we can to get that out,” he said. “We’ll be more vigilant about staff and students. If they have symptoms, we’ll send them home.”

Aside from diligent hand washing, proper rest and good nutrition, flu shots provide additional protection from the seasonal flu; however, it will not protect against H1N1 swine flu, according to Island County Health officials.

“Please help protect yourself and our community by getting your flu shots,” said Island County Health Officer Dr. Roger Case in an email alert.

That’s right, those hoping to dodge both the seasonal flu and H1N1 will need two vaccinations this year. Maybe even three: Two doses of the H1N1 vaccine may be required to ward off the virus, according to the CDC. More information will be available as the trials come to a close.

The Island County Health Department will receive the seasonal flu vaccine in late September as it traditionally does, according to health officials. Clinics will offer public inoculations from early October through November.

H1N1 vaccines will arrive at a later date and will only be available to those who fall under specific priority guidelines because the vaccine is expected to be available in limited supplies.

The priority list does not include those 65 years and older.

“It appears folks born before 1945 appear to have some immunity to this influenza, and are not at nearly so great a risk as are younger individuals,” Case said. He anticipates the swine flu vaccine will arrive here in mid to late October.

The CDC does not expect a serious shortage of the H1N1 vaccine, he said, adding that there should be enough to cover Island County’s needs.

Five U.S. manufacturers are producing the H1N1 vaccine, according to the CDC Web site. The CDC will dole out the new vaccine based on area population.

Since the H1N1’s American debut, a total of 7,511 hospitalizations and 477 deaths in the U.S. associated with the virus have been reported to CDC. The Obama Administration this week predicted that half the population could come down with swine flu this winter, and that 90,000 could die.

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