H1N1 Influenza Information
State Ready for H1N1 - A recent letter from Cathy Slemp
August 26, 2010 · When school started last year, parents and school officials alike were worried about the growing threat of H1N1 otherwise known as swine flu. The state already has its plans ready for this year.
During last flu season from September to early April West Virginia had over 900 cases of flu related hospitalization and 22 deaths. The death of a Cabell County high school student caused serious concern throughout the area.
Cathy Slemp, West Virginia State Health officer says things are happening at a much slower pace this year.
“With all of the activity of last year there was a raised awareness and knowledge about the importance of flu and the effectiveness of flu prevention, so we actually have as a nation and as West Virginia more vaccine supply than we’ve ever had,” Slemp said.
Slemp says this year there are 160 million doses of the flu vaccine in production nationwide. Last year there were only 100 million.
Separate doses were required last year since the H1N1 vaccine wasn’t available when the regular flu vaccine was being produced.
“It is much easier this fall, we expect that or we know that the vaccine this year is simply all in one vaccine, so people can get their usual flu vaccine, there isn’t a special extra vaccine to get,” Slemp said.
Children under 9 will still need two doses if they weren’t vaccinated last year or if they were only partially vaccinated.
The West Virginia health officer says that before last year the state would recommend that high risk groups get the flu shot. She says that’s changed because of last year’s increase awareness of influenza and H1N1.
“Flu vaccine is being recommended for everyone, regardless of your age or your health status it’s important to get your flu vaccine and it’s widely available, I think the most important message is getting out and getting vaccinated, it’ll make a difference for your health and that of your family,” Slemp said.
Slemp says vaccines are already available at drug stores and doctors’ offices throughout the state. As fall approaches she recommends people follow the same guidelines that were issued last year such as frequent hand washing and staying home from work or school when sick.
Elizabeth Ayers is the spokesperson for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department. Ayers says last years’ experience in Cabell County caused people to think seriously about getting vaccinated.
“Last year was a huge scare just for the general person with getting a flu shot, I’ve had people say I’ve never had one and now I’m getting one and in a way that’s good, sometimes it takes serious things to happen for people to realize these are steps we can take to protect ourselves,” Ayers said.
Ayers says as a result of last year county officials know more about how to deal with a flue scare.
“It just lets us know that things like this do happen, as local health officials we do plan for events and we do practice drills and we actually got to practice with H1N1 and how we would operate a clinic and notify the people and so forth,” Ayers said.
Click here to download a question and answer sheet to answer questions such as: What is the swine flu? Is it contagious? What are the signs and how do I avoid getting it?
Click on the links below to find out more about H1N1:
Letter from the state health officer and physician - Dr. Cathy Slemp
H1N1 Flu Facts for Students and Parents - WV Bureau for Public Health