A newly released presidential advisory report on Swine Flu says half the U.S. population will likely be affected by the disease in coming months. Locally, Public Health Officer Dr. Rick Johnson said that this report plans for the worst case scenario.
Dr. Johnson said that the report says up to 90,000 people could die this fall and winter from the H1N1 virus. That is certainly possible, said the Health Officer, but we will do everything that we possibly can to prevent that from happening by giving vaccines and by having people practice good hygiene habits to limit the transmission of this virus.
Public Health in our two counties now focuses on several things, according to Dr. Johnson. We are doing surveillance to try to find out how much influenza there actually is in the Eastern Sierra. Johnson said workers are looking at clinic records, emergency room records, EMS visits for respiratory illnesses, hospital and ICU visits, deaths, school absenteeism rates. We are actively planning for vaccination clinics, he said. That includes seasonal flu vaccines first followed by H1N1 vaccine. Dr. Johnson said public education is also a big part of planning.
Dr. Johnson had earlier said that seasonal flu shots would be available soon with flu clinics in September and H1N1 vaccines in October. He urges people to wash their hands frequently and stay home if you are sick.
Dr. Johnson also pointed out that seasonal flu generally impacts elderly people more seriously, while H1N1 or Swine Flu affects children and young adults more frequently. The most vulnerable to H1N1 are pregnant women.
One more note, flu shots will soon be available at Vons, local pharmacies, doctors and health departments.