GREENPORT—Any Columbia County resident who is six-months of age or older can get a swine flu shot at Columbia-Greene Community College, 4400 Route 23, this Saturday, December 5 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Columbia County Department of Health has scheduled the H1N1 flu vaccine clinic. No appointments are necessary.
According to a county health department press release, H1N1 vaccination clinics for children in all Columbia County schools have been completed. During their monitoring of school district attendance rates, health department staff members have seen an increase in absenteeism lasting three to four days in each school, but no schools had to make scheduling or program changes as a result.
About 5,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine have been given so far, the release said.
Since October, the health department has received lab test results confirming eight cases of the H1N1 virus, often referred to as swine flu.
Columbia Memorial Hospital Infectious Disease Consultant Ananthakrishnan Ramani told The Columbia Paper Tuesday that the number of H1N1 cases in Columbia and neighboring counties, including Albany, Schenectady and Rensselaer, “has hit a plateau” and he is now seeing the number of cases come down.
He said there is some seasonal flu evident, but that number of cases is also a little lower than normal for this time of year.
Both H1N1 and season flu vaccine supplies are limited, Dr. Ramani said, but there is good news for Columbia County residents because the health department has secured a supply of H1N1 vaccine, which it will offer at the December 5 clinic.
The vaccine is also being offered and administered to all hospital in-patients willing to take it, said the doctor, noting that the state has declared that H1N1 flu shots are not mandated for people 65 and older.
He said that most hospital employees have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu.
The shortage of swine flu and seasonal flu vaccine is nationwide, Dr. Ramani noted, explaining that once swine flu vaccine production “was revved up, production of seasonal flu vaccine suffered.”
The doctor said he has not seen any odd or unexpected manifestations of the swine flu, but then as an infectious disease consultant he is trained to expect the unexpected.
How do you know if you or your child has the H1N1 flu or the seasonal flu? The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers information online to answer these and other questions about the flu at www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu. The site says that if you have one or more of these symptoms you may have the flu: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes, diarrhea and vomiting. The CDC notes that “most people with H1N1 have had mild illness and have not needed medical care or antiviral drugs, and the same is true of seasonal flu.”
And the best advice from the leading experts most people with flu symptoms do not need a test for the 2009 H1N1 virus because the test results usually do not change the recommended treatment for the illness.
The CDC says its studies have shown that no children and very few adults younger than 60 years old carry antibodies to 2009 H1N1 flu virus. And while approximately one-third of adults over 60 may have antibodies against this particular virus, the experts don’t know any of these antibodies protect older people against the 2009 H1N1 flu.
The county health department continues to follow the established emergency preparedness plan, which includes increased surveillance, protocols, education and awareness about (H1N1) influenza A, (swine flu) in conjunction with the state Health Department, Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) to get the most up-to-date information and protocols, Public Health Director Nancy Winch said in the release.
Updated influenza information and links to additional sites can be found on the county health department website @ www.columbiacountyny.com.
To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@ColumbiaPaper.