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Dispatch reporter Bruce Smith
Photo courtesy of Guustaaf Damave

This story was filed by Bruce Smith of the South Pierce County Dispatch:

Embracing the notion that safety is the best medicine, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) is partnering with school districts county-wide to develop an immunization program against the swine flu virus for all students, teachers and staff. Contingency plans are also being developed for inoculating younger children and family members, and even expanding the program to include the general public.

“A world-wide flu pandemic has been declared by the World Health Organization,” Joby Winans, spokesperson for the Health Department announced last week. Winans said that this Level 6 alert reflected the novel, unpredictable nature of the H1N1 virus, and its demonstrated ability to easily infect millions of people worldwide.

“However, the H1N1 swine flu virus has not intensified in the Southern Hemisphere during their winter months,” Winans stressed, “and it is certainly not comparable to the deadly 1919 world pandemic.”

Winans said that the H1N1 swine flu virus visited the Puget Sound region last spring, with an impact no different than a regular, seasonal flu.

“Thirty-two people were hospitalized in Pierce County last spring with swine flu, and four of them died,” Winans said. “That’s compared to 36,000 deaths nation-wide from regular flu, annually.”

In response, the TPCHD conducted summer planning sessions with school officials to prepare for the anticipated return of the swine flu.

Krista Carlson, Bethel’s Communication Director, said the district is considering multiple options, such as sending students and staff to an authorized vaccination center, or allowing immunizations to be administered at school sites.

Evening and weekend hours are also being considered so that the program can include families and local communities.

In addition, Winans said that workplace vaccinations are another possibility.However, she said that all inoculations will be voluntary.

The swine flu vaccination will be given in a two-step process with a 21 to 28-day interim.

Carlson said, “Three flu shots are recommended this year. One vaccine is needed for the regular seasonal flu and two more are necessary to protect against the H1N1 virus.”

Winans said that TPCHD will fund the vaccinations via a federal stimulus grant, but they have requested school districts provide at least a portion of their nursing staff to assist in administering the vaccinations.

Carlson said the inoculations will be delivered by injection, or inhalation of a “flu mist.”

One of the novelties of the H1N1 swine flu virus is that it impacts younger people & children as young as 6 months and especially targets young adults up to 24 years.

Winans said she expects her department to launch its immunization program by the end of October.”

Printed here in-full with permission.

Posted by Steve on September 16, 2009 at 5:18 am | Permalink

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