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Flu season: Are you ready?

A changing virus is returning to the Northern Hemisphere and each of us needs to think and review: am I ready, is my family ready, do I have a plan if my child is sick and needs to stay home from school? Do I have a plan for my business if several of my employees are out sick? The hope is to alleviate some of the anxiety by knowing that you have prepared.

Clallam County Health and Human Services, Public Health staff are preparing for possible flu activity in the Fall working with Kitsap Health District, Jefferson County Public Health and Jefferson Healthcare.  There are many unknowns about novel virus H1N1 Flu and CCHHS staff continues to monitor information from Washington State Department of Health (DOH), Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

What we do know is the normal Seasonal Flu will return this winter, and it is important to get your routine Seasonal Flu shot.  The Seasonal Flu vaccine will be available in September.  Wherever you have received your Seasonal Flu shot in the past you should be able to get your flu shot again this year.  If you have never received a Seasonal Flu shot, contact your Primary Care provider. The Seasonal flu clinics will available throughout the County as they have in the past.

CCHHS has been notified to prepare to receive federally supplied H1N1 vaccine as early as mid October.  The current CDC recommendations for use of vaccine against novel influenza H1N1  focuses on five key populations.  These populations account for the majority of H1N1 cases seen in the US:

-    Pregnant women;
-    People who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age; 
-    Health care and emergency medical services personnel;
-    Persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age; and
-    People from ages 25 through 64 years with chronic health conditions or compromised immune systems. 

The groups listed total approximately 159 million people in the U.S.  CDC recognizes the need to assess supply and demand issues at the local level.  CDC further recommends that once the demand for vaccine for these prioritized groups has been met at the local level, it will be available for others.  Current studies indicate the risk for infection among persons age 65 and older is less than the risk for younger age groups. 

The novel H1N1 vaccine will not protect people from Season Influenza, nor will Seasonal Vaccine protect people from H1N1. This means that some people will need multiple vaccinations depending on what group they are in. Example, a pregnant woman should have regular Seasonal Flu vaccine and H1N1 vaccine. A healthy adult age 70 would need just the regular Seasonal Flu vaccine.

Businesses and vital community services may ask CCHHS staff and Medical Reserve Corps volunteers for a short Pan Flu Education module, “Preventing the Spread of Disease in your business”.  There are resources, websites, handouts and planning materials for businesses to prevent the transmission of flu to the public and your employees.   You can download copies of the materials from the Clallam County website at http://www.clallam.net/HHS/PublicHealth/flu.html

Preventing the spread of disease also involves local schools.  Students who are sick with fever will be asked not to come to school. CDC recommendations are if a child is sick with a fever they should not be in school and not return for at least 24 hours after being free of fevers.  Families, as always, need to prepare for how they will care for their children when they are sick and not able to attend school.  Schools need to be prepared to support families and children to stay home when they are sick.

CCHHS is recruiting Medical Reserve Corps Volunteers to assist with Community Pan Flu Education.  Contact Christina Hurst at 360-41-2364 or churst@co.clallam.wa.us for more information.    If you are a retired Medical provider and are interested in registering as a Medical Reserve Corp Emergency volunteer, go to Kitsap Department of Emergency Management’s web site at www.kitsapdem.org and go to Medical Reserve Corps.  Kitsap Department of Emergency Management coordinates Medical Reserve Corps for Kitsap, Jefferson and Clallam Counties. 

The goal is for all of us to stay healthy and prevent the spread of disease during this flu season.

Clallam County Dept of Health and Human Services
223 East 4th Street, Suite #14  Port Angeles, WA 98362-3015  360-417-2274  FAX: 360-417-2519

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