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 Experts: H1N1 not over in Alabama 
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Post Experts: H1N1 not over in Alabama

Experts: H1N1 not over in Alabama ... in-Alabama
January 15, 2010

No one likes having doctors tell you that you face an uncertain future, but that is what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is saying, and state health officials hope that Alabamians heed the warning

Although H1N1 activity and H1N1-related deaths have declined, state health officials are urging residents to get the vaccine and not to take for granted a disease that has already killed 40 people in the state.

Health officials have not ruled out that a third wave of the H1N1 outbreak could occur.

"They've been talking about the possibility of a third wave for six months," said Dr. Jim McVay, spokesman for the state health department. "We've never had a flu season last this long.

"We have ample supply now, and ... it would still be the safest for individuals to get the immunization to protect them and their family."

Swine flu-related deaths in the state have continued to decline since reaching a high in October. After one death in July, there were four in August, 11 in September and 14 in October, five in November, four in December, and so far there has only been one in January.

But the CDC said the outbreak is expected to continue for several more months, and state officials are urging residents to take advantage of the vaccine being available.

Because of local requests and great demand, Walmart and Mollen Immunization Clinics announced that Mollen healthcare professionals would continue to administer H1N1 flu shots in select Walmart stores in the River Region on Saturday, and through Jan. 23.

There is a $15 clinic fee, but most insurance plans cover the fee.

There will be between 200 and 250 doses of vaccines available at each location, John Roehm, president and CEO of the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Mollen, said Thursday.

"We provide flu shots and H1N1 vaccines with Walmart nationally," he said. "Generally, we've been adding to the schedule each week. The seniors that haven't had the opportunity to do this ... we hope they would take advantage of it."

Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunizations and Respiratory Diseases, said although H1N1 appears to be in decline, people cannot afford to become complacent.

"The H1N1 virus is still circulating. We have an uncertain future," she said during a teleconference last week. "We want and need to avoid complacency. As of this past week, four states continue to report widespread activity.

"We're seeing drops in laboratory confirmed hospitalizations and deaths. But we actually did see activity increasing in a few other indicators. We still have more activity than we usually have this time of year, though it's certainly much below where it was several weeks ago. All the virus that we're seeing right now is the H1N1 virus."

If the vaccine isn't used, it also will be money wasted, McVay said.

The federal government agreed to purchase more than 100 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine. Alabama already has received about one million. McVay said it would be a waste of money if people don't use the vaccines because they only have a shelf life of six to eight months.

"The vaccine already has been manufactured and shipped," he said. "The money already has been spent. So with the fact that it will expire before the next flu season, it would be better for people to go ahead and get the protection now."

McVay said the federal government purchased the entire production, with a total of about five companies they contracted with throughout the United States.

Typically, a dose of influenza vaccine costs about $10.

"We probably won't have that much more shipped" to Alabama, McVay said.

Something is going to happen, but what?

Sat Jan 16, 2010 12:31 am
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