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H1N1 cases rising as county awaits more vaccine

POSTED October 30, 2009 11:28 p.m.
The Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a move to bolster the county’s H1N1 preparedness plan as the number of infections continue to grow locally and across the nation.
The Stanislaus County Health and Human Services Agency is still awaiting the initial shipment of the injectible vaccine to arrive.
The county health agency expects to receive the injectible vaccines in the next few weeks, said Phoebe Leung, a spokesperson for the Stanislaus County Health and Human Services Agency. The vaccines will be given out first to people considered to have the highest risk of developing serious complications, which includes: Pregnant women, health care workers, people living with or caring for infants 6 months of age, emergency medical personnel, children from 6 months to 24 years of age, and people ages 25 years to 64 years  with chronic medical conditions.
On Tuesday the Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to submit a request to the state and federal public health agencies for $1.44 million to be used to help the county fight and prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu.
Stanislaus County has reported eight deaths from the influenza virus and 111 hospitalizations. Of those, 55 percent were women. The age of hospitalized patients in Stanislaus County has ranged from 3 months to 72 years, with a median age of 31 years, according to the county health agency.
The vaccine has been available in nasal spray form in Stanislaus County since Oct. 5, but because of limited quantities is only being given to a select number of people. Stanislaus County received an initial 4,600 doses of nasal H1N1 vaccine and it was doled out to local medical offices and health providers.
“The initial quantities of the vaccine is limited, and the California Department of Public Health has directed that all of it be used to immunize children who are 2 years old to just under 10 years of age,” said Dr. John Walker, Stanislaus County Health Officer. “The vaccine has been sent directly to medical providers who see this population.”
The Centers for Disease Control is reporting that the H1N1 virus is now widespread in 48 states and that more children are dying of the virus.
For the week ending Oct. 24, the CDC reported 19 more children died from H1N1 influenza, bringing the total to 114 since the pandemic first appeared in the United States in April. Of those deaths, two-thirds had underlying medical conditions, according to the CDC.
About 40 to 50 children die every year from seasonal influenza.
The warning signs for parents to look for in their children include a child that is difficult to wake or is not eating; has trouble breathing; is turning blue or grayish in color; and if they appear to be getting better and then suddenly worsen.
The exact number of adult fatalities and infections of the H1N1 virus across the country are unknown because the CDC does not require the same reporting requirements for adults as they do for children. Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, director of the CDC, said the agency is working on getting a real-time estimate on the number of infections since the pandemic started and that the number was likely to be in the millions.
The production of the vaccine continues to move at a slower pace than the CDC had originally planned. As of Friday, there were about 89 million doses distributed around the country. Most of those dosages have gone to children and young adults, the CDC reported.
The county health agency closed the Seasonal Flu Clinic at 820 Scenic Dr. in Modesto at the end of the business day on Friday, saying they would re-open when the H1N1 vaccine arrives.
The agency said they were closing the clinic because they had administered as many seasonal flu vaccinations as was administered during the entirety of the last flu season, and as a result, public health officials have decided to reserve the remaining supply of vaccine for previously scheduled  community clinics.
“It is  important for Public Health to continue with these previously scheduled clinics as we are  committed to serve the residents of this county,” stated Cleopathia Moore-Bell, Maternal Child  Health Director and Associate Director at the Health Services Agency. “Our plan is to re-open the walk in clinic when we receive the H1N1 vaccine later this year.”
In addition, the county is now asking residents bring verification that they live in Stanislaus County when getting a flu shot at one of the community clinics.
To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.
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