Isle H1N1 activity held in check


POSTED: Friday, December 04, 2009

Swine flu activity is “;somewhat elevated”; for this time of year in Hawaii, state health officials say, but it is not rising and the islands possibly can avoid the pandemic upsurge that occurred on the mainland.

Increasing vaccinations and good hygiene — washing hands often, covering a sneeze or cough and staying home if sick — can help prevent the H1N1 influenza virus from spreading, they point out.

“;If we're successful, we may be very distinct from the mainland,”; said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist and chief of the state Health Department's Disease Outbreak Control Division.

She said the widespread H1N1 activity on the mainland appears to be waning.

“;That can be good news, but we don't know what the future will bring,”; she said, suggesting that people avoid complacency. “;It's an unpredictable virus. We don't know if we will have another wave in the spring or late winter.”;

Influenza normally would not be an issue until late December or January, she said. But seasonal flu is here early, in addition to the swine flu, she added.

Seniors in particular are urged to get vaccinated for seasonal flu, she said, presenting an update on the flu pandemic yesterday with state Health Director Chiyome Fukino.

Fukino said 302,900 H1N1 vaccine doses have been allocated to Hawaii as of yesterday, and at least 198,740 doses have been shipped or on the way to physicians, hospitals, community health centers and other Hawaii health care providers.

She said vaccine allocations to 567 registered providers are not done on a first-come, first-served basis, but are determined by:

» Medical specialties.

» Geographic location.

» Proportion of population they see.

» Whether they are serving priority groups designated for vaccine.

» Doses they have administered, and other factors.

The department ordered 73,000 doses Wednesday, so much of the vaccine should be available late this week and next week, she said.

Although the demand for vaccine exceeds the slowly arriving supply from the manufacturer, Fukino said she is “;confident over time the supply will catch up with the demand.”;

People ages 2 to 24 with no underlying health problems in priority groups for vaccine are asked to choose flu mist so limited injectable vaccine can be used for pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions, Fukino said.

Others in priority groups for vaccine include people who provide care for infants under the age of 6 months, health care and emergency services personnel, people ages 25 through 54 who have medical conditions, and critical infrastructure personnel.

Vaccine was set aside for 320 H1N1 school clinics. More than 82 schools have completed clinics and vaccinated more than 16,283 students, the officials said.

They are asking health providers with vaccine not to wait to use it, because they want as many people vaccinated as possible to hold down flu activity.

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