Written by Patty Decker Tuesday, 20 October 2009 13:25
Diedre Serene, director of the Marion County Health Department, receives a live form of the H1N1 vaccine, which was adminstered by Anita Hooper, immunization coordinator, last Wednesday.
The Marion County Health Department continues to receive live and inactivated H1N1 vaccines, but it will probably be another month before the vaccine is available to the general public, according to Diedre Serene, director.
“We do not have an overabundance of immunizations,” she said, “and we want to be sure the priority groups have it first.”
Included in the five target groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control are healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, school personnel, caregivers for children younger than 6 years old, pregnant women and those with medical conditions or those with a higher risk of influenza complications.
Serene said she wants to make sure as many people as possible in the initial target groups are vaccinated.
Once that happens, the vaccine will be made available to larger target groups, but in these early weeks, she said, the county health office wants to be cautious on how much of the vaccine is accessible.
What is H1N1 influenza?
The H1N1 virus spreads the same way as other flu viruses, from person to person, according to information provided by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Signs of H1N1 include fatigue, chills, fever, sore throat, muscle aches, coughing and sneezing.
Some people may also experience diarrhea and vomiting, but the majority of people usually feel better in about a week.
But some people get pneumonia or other serious illnesses and require hospitalization. Some might even die, a CDC official stated.
KDHE officials also said Monday that deaths associated with H1N1 in Kansas are averaging three a week.
H1N1 and seasonal flu
What makes H1N1 different from regular or seasonal flu is that most people have little or no immunity to the H1N1 virus.
Seasonal flu, although changing from year to year, is closely related to other previous flu viruses, but H1N1 is a new virus.
In addition, H1N1 is a pandemic flu, occurring three to four times a century and can take place in any season as opposed to the annual flu, which occurs every year during the winter months.
Annual flu affects 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population and the pandemic flu predictions are at 25 to 50 percent, depending on the severity of the virus strain.
Deaths associated with seasonal flu are generally confined to the “at risk” groups (those over 65 or children aged 6 to 23 months). With H1N1, all age groups are at risk for infection, not just the “at risk” groups. For example, adults under age 35 were disproportionately affected during the 1918 pandemic.
Another difference between the two flu viruses is that vaccination is effective with seasonal flu because the strain in circulation each winter can be fairly reliable for predicting unlike H1N1, which may not be available at the start of a pandemic.
New strains of viruses must be accurately identified and producing a vaccine can take up to six months.
Inactivated, live vaccines
Inactivated vaccine is a vaccine that has killed virus in it and is injected into the muscle, like the annual flu shot.
A live, intranasal vaccine is sprayed into the nose and does not contain thimerosal or other preservatives, according to the CDC.
The live vaccine is approved for people ages 2 through 49, who are not pregnant and do not have certain health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, asthma, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or other blood disorders.
Public health surveillance to monitor the impact of H1N1 in Kansas is being conducted via several methods, said Elizabeth Lawlor with KDHE. Among those methods for reporting are through hospitals, outpatient clinics, mortality reporting and household surveys using the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
“The information from these surveillance methods has been very useful at both the state and local levels,” she said. “However, it is recognized that given the epidemiology of the 2009 H1N1 influenza, additional surveillance activities targeting people in the 5 to 24 years of age group, disproportionately affected by this virus, are essential.”
Consequently, school absenteeism surveillance is an integral component to monitor the H1N1 in both school-aged children and in the community.