“Actually there’s probably going to be double the mortality of the seasonal flu. Usually with the seasonal flu there are around 36,000 to 38,000 people who die each year in this country just from seasonal flu alone. So they’re predicting a little more than the normal we experience with the seasonal flu.”
The Portsmouth Daily Times talked with Adams after a report that the swine flu could infect half the U.S. population this fall and winter, hospitalizing up to 1.8 million people and causing as many as 90,000 deaths -- more than double the number that occur in an average flu season, according to an estimate from a presidential panel released Monday.
“We have the seasonal flu vaccine and we’re trying to get people to the pneumonia vaccine,” Adams said. “Most of the people in the community, the physicians and the health care providers are starting to get their supplies of the seasonal flu vaccine.”
Adams said health officials are pushing that plan, especially on the older population, which is not going to be the first to get the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available in late October and November.
When the H1N1 vaccine becomes available, will there be an adequate supply in Scioto County?
“Your guess is as good as mine,” Adams said. “They say there will be. But what it looks like at this point, we’re going to get this, probably in late October and November. And what they want us to do initially is start vaccinating a particular group of people.”
Top priority for the H1N1 vaccine will be pregnant women. Then would come infants six months all the way up to adults age 64.
“That would include people with chronic illnesses,” Adams said. “And they want us to get people who work in daycare centers or people who have young children or infants at home less than six months of age, because they don’t qualify for any type of flu vaccine.”
Adams said immunization is not done to infants until they reach six months of age.
According for the Centers for Disease Control, current studies indicate that the risk for infection among persons age 65 or older is less than the risk for younger age groups.
“So what we’re trying to do at this time is to immunize the older population with seasonal flu vaccine that’s available to those 65 and older who won’t be coming back for three months or so, because this flu season is going to probably hit early this year,” Adams said.
“And the one that’s probably going to be the most difficult is the new H1N1. But they’re also thinking that the traditional flu viruses that are going to be circulating will probably show up too, but nothing like what we’re going to see with the H1N1.”
Is there a plan in place for a possible pandemic?
“You plan and prepare. You look at disasters like (Hurricane) Rita and (Hurricane) Katrina, and you could easily be overwhelmed,” Adams said, “particularly if we had a shortage of health care providers that were sick, or if we had a shortage of people working in public works like water systems, sewage systems, running local government, food supplies like groceries — the Kroger type stores and places like that — it could be a problem.”
Adams said health officials are predicting a worse scenario than the U.S. normally experiences with the traditional season flu.
“The difference is this (H1N1) affects the younger population as opposed to the older population,” Adams said. “The cases we are seeing so far are mostly young infants, children, pregnant women, and young adults, as opposed to the older population that may have some acquired immunity from being exposed to previous viruses out there.”
Adams, who is involved in making a community outreach presentation, an H1N1 update, this morning at Southern Ohio Medical Center, said he believes community education is key to handling any possible health emergency.
FRANK LEWIS may be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 232.