09/17/09 — Health Dept. takes aim at flu risk

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Health Dept. takes aim at flu risk

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on September 17, 2009 1:46 PM

Wayne County will have more flu cases this year, and the Health Department hopes to have enough H1N1 vaccines to counter it.

A free public information session on the H1N1 virus is also planned for next week.

Health Director James Roosen discussed the Health Department's plan of action during Wednesday's Board of Health meeting.

"If H1N1 had occurred back in November of 2008 it would have been termed the seasonal flu," he said. "But it's affecting people outside the typical flu season."

There is not as much activity this year with the seasonal flu, Roosen noted.

"Ninety-eight percent of the cases we're seeing are the H1N1 virus," he said. "The good news is that H1N1 has been very mild -- sore throat, fever."

His office has received a number of calls, inquiring about the vaccines, which he noted are typically given in mid-October.

"Right now all we have got is (vaccines for the) typical season flu," he said. "We're going to see a lot of flu this year."

About 2,000 vaccines for the seasonal flu have been purchased by the Health Department or were state-supplied, he said.

Ideally, there will be sufficient H1N1 vaccines for the community, but that remains to be seen, the health director said.

"We have reserved about 35,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine for Wayne County," he said. "With this vaccine to go to all providers, we're looking at 25 medical agencies in Wayne County. Whether or not we get them is another story because we don't know how many were produced."

At present, the Center for Disease Control has recommended initially rationing the vaccines, with several target groups given preference, Roosen said.

These include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children six months or younger, health care and emergency medical services workers, 6-month-olds up to age 24, and those 25-64 at risk of complications for influenza.

Roosen outlined the plan once the H1N1 vaccine is received and distributed to providers -- vaccinating residents against the seasonal flu and H1N1 and vaccinating school children.

"We're looking at around 3,500 doses. We're working with the school system now on how to vaccinate the kids," he said.

There are a few potential problems anticipated, however, Roosen said -- estimating demand for the vaccine, timing of the vaccine's arrival, cost of mass vaccination and manpower needed.

"We have done mass vaccinations before but again, estimating demand may be a problem," he said. "I think the key is demand for H1N1. Hopefully it will be here around the first week of October."

The public can learn more about the situation by attending next week's free session on H1N1, co-sponsored by the Health Department.

The event will be Tuesday in Moffatt Auditorium on the Wayne Community College campus starting at 6:30 p.m.

"There seemed to be a need as well as a want for information on this flu virus," said David Hessel-meyer, regional preparedness coordinator, who formerly served as bioterrorism coordinator with the Health Department.

The open forum will feature several speakers, including Dr. Keith Henderson of the public health regional surveillance team for Region 3, which includes Wayne County.

Topics will range from how the flu affects people to a comparison between H1N1 and the seasonal flu.

"We'll also talk about what has Wayne County, especially the Health Department, done this time, what we're doing now, both reactively as well as what we will do in the future to make sure we are prepared," Hesselmeyer said. "We'll have some handouts, too, and look at what people can do to prepare."

There will also be a question-and-answer segment, with presenters remaining afterwards to take more questions from the audience.