11/02/05 — Agencies, base experts watching for signs of flu

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Agencies, base experts watching for signs of flu

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on November 2, 2005 1:51 PM

Despite rampant "doom and gloom reports" about avian flu, Wayne County Health Director James Roosen said he is optimistic about local measures in place to track potential problems.

"Surveillance has been put in place in Wayne County," said Roosen, pointing to the Influenza Sentinel Surveillance Program at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base as one example.

"Seymour Johnson is a flu sentinel site, meaning they track the incident of influenza-like illness," he said. "We are also tracking illnesses in child care facilities and in the public schools."

The sentinel flu program was introduced at Seymour Johnson about a year ago, Roosen said. It ties into the state flu reporting system that monitors influenza-like illness weekly. Information is reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Pre-vention, where it is then consolidated into figures for the entire state.

Locally, school nurses and day care operators have volunteered to report anything out of the ordinary, Roosen said. Some cases of illness and absences have already been reported, he said.

Health Department personnel are also in place to test the system and ask questions about possible trends. Lab tests are also done, if necessary, to determine actual case of flu.

"It's an active surveillance system," he said. "Our (epidemiological) 'epi team' is mobilized and will call parents and find out what's going on.

"This is something that's new for everybody. Part of it is in place to determine disease at an earlier stage so you can contain it, treat it ... prevent its spreading."

It is difficult to make any projections about how the upcoming flu season will play out, Roosen said.

"All we can say is to practice those simple things that mama told you to do - wash your hands, cover your mouth, don't go to work when you're sick," he said. "And keep your immune system healthy."

Beginning Monday, the Health Department will administer the flu vaccine to the general public. The walk-in clinic will be open from 8 a.m. until 11:45 a.m. and from 1-4 p.m. as long as the supply lasts. Appointments are not necessary.

Roosen said that all Wayne County residents, especially the elderly, those with chronic conditions, and citizens whose physician have recommended they receive the flu vaccine, should take advantage of the vaccine being offered.

Patients are asked to bring a Medicare or Medicaid card, or an insurance card. Otherwise, the charge for the flu vaccine is $20, or $30 for the pneumonia vaccine.

Forms can be downloaded in advance by visiting the Web site www.waynegov.com/health and the form can be completed prior to arrival to reduce wait time.

Roosen said the first clinic, held this past Saturday at Goldsboro Middle School, was very successful. Waiting time was estimated at between eight and 11 minutes, he said, with 1,620 vaccinations given out.

He said he was especially pleased with the number of volunteers from other agencies who helped.

"It's critically important if this ever happens for real, if we have a real emergency, to have these people in place," he said.