The overall strategy to arrest the spread of the flu is prevention.
By WILLIAM K. ALCORN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
STRUTHERS — Mahoning County public health officials urged people to get seasonal flu shots a soon as possible and those in targeted groups to get the H1Ni (swine) flu vaccine when it becomes available.
The H1N1 vaccine is expected to be available in late October or early November, said Matthew Stefanak, county district board of health commissioner.
‘If we want to slow the spread of the flu, seasonal or H1N1, more kids need to get the vaccine,” he said.
Stefanak and Dr. John Venglarcik spoke about plans to prepare for the onslaught of both the seasonal and H1N1 flu Monday at a public forum on the subject at Struthers Middle School, attended by about 50 people.
The overall strategy to arrest the spread of the flu is prevention, Stefanak said.
The best advice is to wash hands frequently, cover the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, stay home from work or school when sick and get the vaccines for seasonal and H1N1 flu, he said.
Stefanak said the county health department will help schools set up flu clinics beginning Nov. 1, a date by which he is confident an ample supply of H1N1 vaccine will be available.
Responding to a question about what happens if the flu does get out of hand in schools, Stefanak said the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention recommend that sick kids stay home.
If too many students and staff get sick, the individual schools will make the decision on whether they close, he said.
Of the 315 million people in the United States, some 159 million are in the target populations to receive the first round of H1N1 vaccine, said Dr. Venglarcik.
The target groups are: Pregnant women, 5 million; parents and caregivers of children younger than 6 months, 4 million; health-care workers, 14 million; people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years, 102 million; and adults from ages 19 to 64, 34 million.
People over 64 should get the seasonal vaccine, but will not be in the first group of people to receive the H1N1 vaccine because they are believed to have developed some immunity to the H1N1 strain during flu outbreaks in 1957 and 1976.
Dr. Venglarcik said within the last couple of weeks it has been learned that for most people, one dose of vaccine for the N1N1 flu will be adequate, where not long ago it was believed a second dose would be necessary.
However, he said children under the age of 10 will still need two doses, the first one to prime the immune system and the second as a booster. The first will be of no use without the second, Dr. Venglarcik said.
The H1N1 flu vaccine is free, paid for by the government with taxpayer money. However, doctors and other distributors may charge for an office visit, which may be paid for with private insurance, Medicare or Medicaid, Stefanak said.
The bottom line, Dr. Venglarcik said, is that this is a free country, and people are not required to get the flu vaccine.
“We don’t need 100 percent, but if a very high percentage of the targeted population gets the vaccine, there will not be a serious H1N1 flu problem,” he said.
Who needs vaccine against regular winter flu, and who should be first in line for the swine-flu shot? Regular flu vaccine is available now, and people who need it most include:
Adults 50 and older.
All children age 6 months to 18 years.
People of any age with chronic health problems like asthma, heart disease or a weakened immune system.
Caregivers to the high-risk, including babies younger than 6 months.
Don’t like shots? There’s a nasal spray version of the vaccine, called FluMist, available for people ages 2 to 49. Once the swine-flu vaccine starts arriving next month, the government says first in line will be:
The young, from age 6 months up through age 24.
Younger and middle-aged adults with those chronic health conditions.
Source: Associated Press