Reaction split over H1N1’s risk potential - East Valley Tribune: News

Reaction split over H1N1’s risk potential

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Posted: Saturday, August 29, 2009 2:44 pm | Updated: 1:04 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

Seasonal flu shot clinics begin this week around the Valley. Visitor restrictions start Wednesday in some hospitals. Clinical trials on an H1N1 vaccine are under way in Chandler.

Seasonal flu shot clinics begin this week around the Valley. Visitor restrictions start Wednesday in some hospitals. Clinical trials on an H1N1 vaccine are under way in Chandler.

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The local health care community is ramping up for what could be a double onslaught of the flu — seasonal and the novel H1N1 virus also known as the “swine flu.”

Some parents say there’s too much media hype. They plan to remind kids of healthy habits — hand washing, covering a cough — but many say they’ll avoid the new vaccine and are doubtful about getting a seasonal flu shot.

“Our responsibility as a public health system is to give families all the information they need to make a good decision,” said Will Humble, interim director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “At that point, it’s up to them to make a decision that’s appropriate for their family. If they decide not to take any action, it’s their responsibility.”

Banner Hospitals around the Valley — including Banner Desert in Mesa — are starting visitor restrictions about six weeks earlier than normal. In the past, children 12 and younger were not allowed to visit during respiratory syncytial virus season, also known as RSV. But with the H1N1 virus targeting young people, and many not knowing they’re infected, the restrictions are starting Sept. 2, said Marti Reich, infection preventionist at Cardon Children’s Medical Center and Banner Desert Medical Center.

“They tend to be the ones who show up with the virus first and most often when we looked at the statistics earlier,” Reich said.

Children were restricted from visiting in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit two weeks ago.

“We were seeing pregnant moms delivering and diagnosed with H1N1,” she said. “We did start restricting for our very vulnerable population.”

Clinical Research Advantage is running trials of the pediatric H1N1 vaccine in Chandler. The 25 participants will get two shots and blood draws to determine the effectiveness of the vaccine. There are four pharmaceutical companies nationwide running trials like this in several states, said Casey Orvin, vice president of business development for the company.

Beginning Oct. 6, the company will help facilitate a trial of the adult vaccine, Orvin said.

While there was hope the vaccine would be available for public consumption in September, the timeline has been moved to October, which could be the peak of the H1N1 breakout, Orvin said.

THREAT EXAGGERATED?

Many parents said no matter when the vaccine is available, they don’t plan to give it to their children.

“With the flu going around, I tell them, 'Don’t drink after anyone. Wash your hands after you eat,’” said Wyndi Yocum, who has three school-age children.

The flu shot will be available during a school-based clinic at Mesa’s Las Sendas Elementary School, where two of her children attend.

“My kids have never had a flu shot,” she said. “I kept the paperwork from school. I’m not sure if I’m going to do the flu shot or not. That’s how unworried about it I am.”

Jennifer Goehring of Chandler agreed. She has a son in kindergarten and a 3-year-old at home.

“The regular flu shots, I think it’s a good thing for young kids and the elderly,” she said. “As for H1N1, it’s too experimental. I’m not going to inject myself or my kids with it.”

Goehring, who just completed her classes in preparation for nursing school, said she heard lots of information about the virus in the spring because she was taking her microbiology course at the same time.

“I think the media is blowing it out of proportion,” she said.

She cited information that the H1N1 will be at a peak in October, before the vaccine is even available.

“What’s the point of getting the vaccine after the peak?” she said. “I think it’s better if your immune system can fight it off naturally.”

While the flooding of emergency rooms and school closings in the spring kept news of the virus in the public eye, little has been said over the summer about local outbreaks.

But H1N1 has never left Arizona, Humble said, and people need to be aware of its potential.

“I’m making my darn sure our family gets its vaccine when our turn comes up,” Humble said.

Maricopa County’s director of public health, Dr. Bob England, and his colleagues have said since last spring that the second wave of the H1N1 virus could impact a greater number of people. He is encouraging people to get a seasonal flu vaccine now — and the H1N1 vaccine when it’s available — to help avoid a strain on their bodies, and on emergency rooms and doctors’ offices.

“We’re trying really hard to push our messages out, but guidance and information is going to change many times,” he said. “People need to pay attention. This is a very fluid situation.”

'STEADY CASE OF H1N1’

Walgreens, the Mollen Clinics and others are starting seasonal flu vaccine clinics this week.

Humble said his office is preparing for the fall arrival of the H1N1 vaccine. Close to 900 doctors’ offices, hospitals and public health centers have registered with his department to dispense up to 1.8 million doses of the vaccine. While seasonal flu vaccines are ordered and dispensed privately, the state will be responsible for doling out the H1N1 vaccine when it gets here, he said.

Orvin, of Clinical Advantage Research, said the federal government will allow the pharmaceutical companies to prefill syringes with the vaccine before testing is complete, “in hopes that everything is fine so in case it is fine, they can get it out” to the public.

What’s unclear yet is whether one dose or two will be needed, Orvin said.

Some school districts, like Mesa Unified, are setting up seasonal flu shot clinics during school hours. The Mesa Fire Department will be responsible for giving the vaccine, said Mesa district spokeswoman Kathy Bareiss.

It’s unclear yet if the district will be involved in H1N1 vaccination clinics, she said.

Just how much the outbreak will affect Arizona and the Valley is anyone’s guess, Humble said. Much depends on the public’s response to advice: Get vaccinated, cover coughs, stay home if you feel sick and when you are sick with influenza and it’s appropriate, take your medicines.

The state has its allocation of antivirals from the federal stockpile, Humble said. Much of it arrived in the spring after the first H1N1 outbreak.

The World Health Organization reported Friday on its Web site that surveillance of the disease has shown H1N1 is now the dominant influenza virus making people sick around the globe.

“Over the summer, it has been the virus in Arizona. We have had flu cases over the summer and all of them have been the new H1N1 strain,” Humble said.

On Monday, the state received 50 samples to test, up from the daily trickle of 12 to 15 that had been received in previous weeks.

England said the return of students to classrooms may to be blame.

“We have had a steady case of H1N1,” England said. “That means a number of kids came back to school probably incubating the virus.”

Studies also show the virus is not anymore lethal than it has been, the World Health Organization reports.

Most people who get sick from H1N1, England said, will ache and feel feverish and tired, not too unlike the seasonal flu.

Those with underlying respiratory illnesses may be more vulnerable to serious lung issues like pneumonia.

In the latest data from the state, Arizona has had 1,157 confirmed H1N1 cases. The median age of patients is 15 years old. Of those who were hospitalized, 75 percent had a concurrent or underlying medical condition such as asthma, chronic lung or heart disease, diabetes or an immune disorder.

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