Although H1N1 infections in Kansas are declining after a mid-October peak, the Centers for Disease Control still recommend people who have not yet done so be vaccinated.
Only 16 percent of Allen Countians have heeded that advice, said Public Health Nurse Wendy Froggatte of the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Department.
“It’s scary stuff,” Froggatte said of the odd strain of type A influenza that swept the country in fall.
Unlike seasonal flu, which tends to strike the elderly or health-impaired, H1N1 attacks those in otherwise good health.
“Because we’re such a small community we’re at risk,” Froggatte said.
She urged all Allen Countians to take advantage of free immunizations available through the health department. Unlike earlier in the season, vaccine is now plentiful, Froggatte said.
To date, 2,300 of Allen County’s estimated 13,000 residents have been vaccinated, either with live nasal vaccine or injected killed virus.
Froggatte said fear and lack of education about flu and the vaccine itself seems to be keeping more people from being immunized.
“There’s just this absolute thought process that they’re going to grow tails or some awful thing,” Froggatte said.
“They’re not educating themselves,” Froggatte said.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment Web site, www.kdheks.gov, and the Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov, both contain copious amounts of information on the virus’ effects and the vaccine used to prevent its spread.
Froggatte noted that individuals concerned about mercury used to preserve some vaccines need not worry. The nasal spray contains no such preservative. In addition, she said, she has on hand mercury-free injectable vaccine.
In Allen County, regular shots outweigh nasal or preservative-free vaccines given. A total of 2,271 doses have been administered through the health department so far.
About 72 more doses were to be given at a shot clinic at Russell Stover Candies today, Froggatte said. “Thursday, I’m doing day cares,” Froggatte said of additional planned clinics.
Froggatte said Allen County currently has “about 250 doses of injectable vaccine and about 100 of the nasal” available, with more available on demand.
THE HEALTH department hosted several shot clinics for area schools in fall and early winter. Students in Moran, Humboldt and Iola were all offered vaccinations.
Immunizing youth is important, because H1N1 attacks younger individuals by a 2:1 ratio over those who are older. CDC data showed that as of Jan. 15, 90 percent of the hospitalizations and 88 percent of the deaths due to H1N1 were in the 18-64 and 0-17 age groups. KDHE noted on its Web site that statewide, people aged 19-24 are especially susceptible.
H1N1 can also cause death in those with no underlying health concerns. Deaths are especially disproportionate in people in the 18-64 year-old group, who succumb 8:1 over other age groups, the CDC reported. Between 7,800 and 16,460 deaths nationwide were estimated due to the virus as of Dec. 12, noted the CDC.
In Kansas, 26 deaths have been confirmed as being caused by H1N1. But that number severely underestimates the impact of H1N1, said the KDHE’s Mike Heideman.
“Pneumonia is the most common severe complication of flu,” he said. If pneumonia deaths are included, 528 flu-related deaths were reported in Kansas between Sept. 26, 2009 and Jan. 9, 2010, Heideman said.
“Most of those (deaths) were in the 65-plus age range,” Heideman said, giving cause to the state’s urging that all individuals, including those over 65, now get the H1N1 vaccine.
As of Jan. 9, 473,364 doses of H1N1 vaccine were given to about 17 percent of the state’s population.
Heideman said that KDHE would love to se that number rise.
“This past week was national influenza vaccination week,” he said. The state is encouraging all who have not yet done so to get the shots, he said, as there is a possibility of a resurgence in flu.
“In ’57-’58 when there was an earlier flu pandemic, we saw increased activity in October, like this year,” Heideman said, “and there was another upswing after the holidays.” While he can’t predict the same thing will occur with H1N1, Heideman noted that “with seasonal flu, flu activity tends to peak around February or March in Kansas.”
“This is the first time public health has tried to deflect or mitigate a pandemic,” Heideman said.
ALLEN COUNTY has had 10 confirmed cases of H1N1, Froggatte said. “Plus pretty much you can guarantee that all type A cases we had were H1N1,” she added.
Heideman confirmed that premise, noting the state stopped testing specifically for H1N1 some months ago.
“To be tested you have to be hospitalized,” Froggatte said.
Allen County’s official flu cases “all are now doing well,” Froggatte noted.
Flu shots are available, free of charge, at the Allen County Multi-County Health Department, 221 S. Jefferson, all day Monday during walk-in hours 8 a.m. to noon, and 12:30-5:30 p.m., and Tuesday through Thursday by appointment those same hours.