With well over 100 reported cases in New York State, H1N1 flu – commonly referred to as “swine flu” – remains a significant concern for health officials, public schools and families. Since schools are now opened and traditional flu season is quickly approaching, the number of H1N1 cases is expected to rise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently provided information about the October availability of the H1N1 flu vaccine. The amounts will be limited and the vaccine requires two disbursements given 3 to 4 weeks apart, The CDC has recommended getting vaccinated against seasonal flu in the meantime to help maintain a healthy immune system, lessening your chances of catching H1N1.
A “priority list” has been created by the CDC regarding the importance of vaccination for specific populations. Pregnant women, caregivers in direct contact with children younger than 6 months old, emergency personnel and health care workers in direct contact with patients, and children and young adults between the ages of 6 months and 24 years head the list. If vaccination availability is insufficient, the CDC says that prioritization within these target groups might be necessary. Only after the demand for these groups has been met will vaccines he made available to adults aged 25 to 64, and then to those 65 and older.
There will be approximately 3, 000 “drop sites” throughout the state. At these sites, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) will distribute vaccinations in accordance with local health departments. Pharmaceutical companies have produced two forms of the vaccine to be administered independently of the other – a shot and a nasal spray – both of which are multi-dose. The vaccine and its required supplies will be provided to physicians by the federal government at no cost, and health insurance companies are being urged to reimburse doctors and their practices for administration of vaccine. All H1N1 vaccination providers are required to register patients under the age of 19 with the New York State Immunization Information system (NYSIIS) in order to maintain accountability of the vaccine.
While the majority of affected individuals experience mild to moderate symptoms and most have recovered without hospitalization or antiviral treatment, H1N1 continues to be an issue. As evidenced by the June declaration from the World Health Organization the virus has reached the level of pandemic, meaning a global outbreak of the disease. New Yorkers are urged to follow the precautionary measures that have been recommended since the beginning of the outreach:
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze;
- Wash your hands often with soap and water;
- Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth as germs spread easily this way;
- Avoid close contact with sick people; and
- Follow public health advice regarding school closings and other social distancing measures.
For the latest information about H1N1, visit the NYSDOH’s Web site at www.nyhealth.gov/diseases/influena/h1n1/. For more information about NYSIIS – a statewide Web-based registry that contains an individual’s immunization history – visit www.health.state.ny.us/prevention/immunization/information system/.