Vaccines in transit H1N1 shipments are headed to Watauga
Flu vaccine supplies are currently scarce in the High Country,
but more weekly shipments are expected as the flu season swings into full gear.
In addition, H1N1 or "swine flu" vaccines should also be appearing in local health providers' offices this week.
Deborah Greene, health educator at the Appalachian District Health Department, said there is a "very limited supply of seasonal flu injectable vaccine" available for adults and children under 3.
The flu-mist nasal spray for seasonal flu is available for those recommended to receive it.
"We have a small quantity of nasal spray vaccine for H1N1 flu and we just received a small shipment of injectable H1N1 vaccine today (Thursday)," Greene said.
"Our first priority is to vaccinate the pregnant mothers that we see in our office, and subsequently, follow the guidance of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) to vaccinate priority populations first."
The health department is partnering with Watauga County Schools to offer seasonal flu vaccine to 7th and 8th grade students whose parents give permission for the vaccine.
"As we receive more shipments, which we expect on a weekly basis, we will be following the CDC guidance for priority populations first with the plan to offer the vaccine to all those who wish to receive it as our supply increases," Greene said. "Also, based on state guidance received this week, private providers that had already planned to be a part of providing H1N1 vaccine campaign should be receiving their first shipments of H1N1 vaccine this week, and will continue to receive shipments as we are."
H1N1 influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a new strain of flu virus. In June 2009, H1N1 was declared a pandemic, which means it is everywhere in the world. Symptoms are similar to those of the regular flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, and chills, but may also include diarrhea and vomiting. Most people recover in about a week.
Antiviral drugs can reduce the impact of the virus and shorten the infection period. Antiviral drugs are only available by prescription, so those who may have the flu should see their health-care provider.
Greene said those who decide to take the nasal spray vaccine for both H1N1 and seasonal flu should wait four weeks between receiving H1N1 vaccine and seasonal flu vaccine. Officials also encourage good hygiene habits such as frequent hand washing, as well as staying home if sick.
More information is available at http://www.flu.gov and http://www.flu.nc.gov.