“The short red line gets long — Flu symptoms jump in Mass

BHN has been regularly updating an earlier post. But, it looks like it is time to put H1N1 back on the top of the queue.  

11/5 New state weekly report:

As illustrated in this week’s report, we continue to see dramatic increases in the number of cases of Influenza-like illness (ILI) across the state. This means that it is more important than ever for everyone to follow our flu prevention and control measures.

Not surprisingly, many schools are seeing an increase of H1N1 flu circulating and parents are, understandably, concerned about their children getting sick. We would like to share with you some information on how the Department of Public Health is working with administrators and school nurses across the state to help them prevent the spread of the flu.

 11/5  Sacha Pfeiffer at WBUR has a nice piece on kids with flu symptoms flooding the Childrens Hospital ER and why that’s a bad idea.  Here’s a sidebar on what to do when your kids get sick. (BHN heard the audio on this earlier but there is no link to it on the story’s web page.)

11/4 Boston Business Journal on the randomness of getting an H1N1 shot.

11/4 According to a report from a worker’s rights group “Wal-Mart’s stingy sick-leave policy may contribute to swine flu’s spread.” Workers there are punished for taking too many sick days. Via the fine folks at the Institute for Southern Studies.

The report found that the only time the company is removing sick workers from the food section is when they are coughing too loudly or violently — and then the person is merely transferred to another department rather than being sent home.

11/3 General CDC information for parents of children K-12.  

11/2 — NECN story on H1N1 vaccines clinics in RI and VT. Still reporting no public clinics in Mass. until December.  

11/1 From the AP: Govt says swine flu vaccine catching up to demand.

 10/30  Today’s weekly update of Mass residents with flu like symptoms shows ” a continuous, dramatic increase in ILI (influenza-like illness) activity over the past few weeks in excess of what was seen at the same time the last two years.”

It also includes an update on vaccine availability for n women.

(N)ot all obstetrical practices in Massachusetts are registered to receive the vaccine. This poses a problem for women who go to these providers and who wish to be vaccinated. 

If your doctor is not currently registered to administer H1N1 vaccine, you might recommend that they do so through the DPH website at the DPH vaccine provider registry . Registration is fast and easy, and continues to be open for new registrants. You may also ask your provider to refer you to a medical associate who is enrolled to administer the vaccine.

10/29 From the DPH, More Details About the H1N1 Vaccine Distribution Program

As of today, more than 480,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine have been distributed to providers in Massachusetts –- just the tip of the iceberg of the total 3.5 million doses of vaccine that we expect to receive this flu season. This is not where we expected to be at this point based on what we were initially told by the federal government, and it creates a difficult and frustrating situation for everyone, especially those people at greatest risk of complications from the H1N1 flu… 

10/29 Sacha Pfeiffer at WBUR tries to sort out who is getting the vaccine and who isn’t:With the H1N1 swine flu vaccine in high demand and short supply in Massachusetts and nationwide, people considered “high-risk” are supposed to be vaccinated first. But some high-risk patients can’t find the vaccine even though some seemingly healthier patients can. That has many people wondering if there’s any rhyme or reason to how the vaccine is being divvied up.

10/28: I’m lapsed but go to Mass now and then. I was wondering what it would take to get the Catholic Church to see the risks involved in shaking hands with seven or eight strangers. The Globe reports that it was H1N1 .

10/27 — The latest from the state on access  to the vaccine, or lack of it. Now looking at late November for most people. Their “limited supply is reserved for people at especially high risk for flu, which includes pregnant women, children, caregivers of infants and healthcare workers with direct patient contact. As supplies grow, this will expand to include the additional priority groups of young adults up to the age of 24, and people between the ages of 25 and 64 with underlying health conditions like asthma and diabetes. 

We expect the number of doses of H1N1 vaccine in the state to exceed 1 million by the end of November. As it arrives, we will continue to work to ensure that the vaccine that is available goes to these high priority groups. We thank you for your patience and understanding10/26 H1N1 Mist v. Shot, from the Mass DPH

The H1N1 flu shot in an inactivated vaccine, which means that it contains killed virus. The shot is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including healthy people, people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. You can find more information on the H1N1 flu shot in this CDC .pdf file.

 The H1N1 nasal spray flu vaccine is made with live, weakened viruses that do not cause the flu. The spray is sometimes called LAIV for “live attenuated influenza vaccine.” The spray is approved for use in healthy people 2 years to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. More info here.

 On Saturday, Obama just declared H1N1 a “national emergency,” a move that is less alarming than it sounds.

The state DPH posted this  response on Sunday:

The Patrick Administration has conferred with the Massachusetts Hospital Association regarding the President’s declaration and joint efforts are being made to inform hospitals of its content.  The declaration does not increase the pace at which the H1N1 vaccine will become available to the public.  Production delays have decreased the shipments of vaccine to Massachusetts and all other states.  So far in Massachusetts, 300,000 doses of the vaccine have been distributed to clinical sites.  Hundreds of thousands more are expected in the coming weeks.  Public health officials reaffirmed that residents of the state can play an active role in decreasing the spread of the flu by staying home when sick and by carefully practicing health hygiene.

 Also:  The red line on a chart showing the  incidence of flu like symptoms in the state has finally appeared for this year. It is short, as they say, but it is much higher than the line for the two previous years.

Or as the state DPH put it, the line shows a “continuous, dramatic incidence in ILI (influenza type illness ) activity over the past few week.”  

On the national emergency:  From the AP, via the Globe:

The declaration, which the White House announced Saturday, allows HHS in some cases to let hospitals relocate emergency rooms offsite to reduce flu-related burdens and to protect noninfected patients.

Administration officials said the declaration was a pre-emptive move designed to make decisions easier when they need to be made. Officials said this was not in response to any single development on an outbreak that has lasted months and has killed more than 1,000 people in the United States.

You’ll need to be in a high-risk group to get a H1N1 vaccine before November. See the CDC for that list. Check with your doctor or http://flu.masspro.org to find out when the vaccine will be available.  More on vaccine supply here, also from the CDC.

This from the state:

Our top priority is and will remain those members of the public who are at greatest risk.  Initially that category includes children, pregnant women and health care workers.  As supplies allow, we will also target young adults below the age of 25, and 25-64 year olds with certain underlying health conditions.  Public clinics will only be held at the point that there is sufficient volume to shift beyond the focus on these target groups.  The CDC states that eventually there will be enough H1N1 vaccine to protect anyone in the population who wishes to be immunized.

 10/23  Here it comes. This from the Globe:

Flu activity is widespread in Massachusetts for the first time this fall, public health officials said today, leading a Central Massachusetts high school to close its doors until Wednesday and almost certainly reflecting cases caused by the swine flu virus, whose return has been expected since it first emerged in the spring.


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