County Moves on H1N1 Plan
The vaccine against H1N1 influenza will not be available until October, but the Moore County Health Department is moving ahead with a response to the expected outbreak.
As the lead agency coordinating the county's response to the outbreak, the Health Department is working with county government, FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital, local physicians' offices, both public and private schools, and Sandhills Community College to develop a comprehensive plan.
The plan is based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations, as well as directives from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, a news release from the Health Department says.
The CDC has made public its concern that the novel H1N1 flu virus, more popularly known as swine flu, could result in a particularly severe flu season this year.
County Health Director Robert Wittmann said the first phase of the response plan centers on educating the public about prevention and infection control. He said the best way to prevent the spread of this disease is good personal hygiene.
These precautions are recommended: wash hands often with soap and water, or use a 60-percent or more alcohol-based sanitizer if soap and water are not available; cover nose or mouth with a tissue when sneezing or coughing; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth; and stay home when sick.
The second phase focuses on treatment with antiviral medications. Antivirals, such as Tamiflu, should not be used for healthy people in an attempt to prevent becoming sick, according to the CDC. Medical providers should utilize CDC recommendations for prescribing antivirals.
These recommendations are that priority use for antiviral drugs is to treat severe influenza and people with active flu who have a condition that places them at high risk for serious flu-related complications, such as asthma.
The third phase involves a collaborative effort between the Moore County Health Department and its community partners to outline the projected distribution of the H1N1 vaccine, expected to be available in October.
Because the vaccine will initially be in limited supply, the CDC recommends that it be administered on a priority basis to individuals falling within certain categories most likely to be affected by this particular virus. These priority groups are pregnant women, persons who live with or care for children under six months of age, health-care workers and emergency responders, persons ages six months to 24 years, and persons between 25 and 64 years or older at higher risk because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.
Wittmann said current studies indicate that the risk for infection among persons age 65 or older is less than the risk for younger age groups. However, once vaccine demand among the priority groups has been met, vaccine will become available for those not in the priority groups.
When the H1N1 vaccine is made available, Wittman said the Health Department will ensure that priority groups are instructed how best to obtain the vaccination.
"Vaccines are the best tool we have to prevent influenza," Wittmann said. "The CDC has strongly recommended that people get vaccinated against seasonal influenza as soon as vaccines become available at their doctors' offices and in their communities."
The CDC says the seasonal flu vaccine is unlikely to provide protection against the novel H1N1 flu, and the novel H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine. Instead, the H1N1 flu vaccine is intended to be administered in addition to the seasonal flu vaccine.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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