Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Mon, Oct. 19

Updated information about the H1N1 virus

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - As a result of recent news stories about H1N1 (swine) flu and the upcoming flu season, the Coconino County Health Department (CCHD) has received a number of calls about seasonal flu vaccination clinics and the availability of H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine, as well as questions about how to protect yourself from illness.

CCHD has some information at this time and will continue to receive updated information over the next several weeks. The public will be informed as new details are finalized. Here is the information that CCHD has to date:

Seasonal flu vaccination clinics

Seasonal flu vaccine is expected to be available early this month. Flu clinic schedules are being finalized and information will be provided to staff and the public as soon as it is available. Everyone is encouraged to get a seasonal flu shot this year so be sure to review this information when received.

H1N1 flu vaccine

CCHD does not expect to receive the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine until mid-October. The initial shipment of vaccine will be reserved for priority high risk groups as follows:

• Pregnant women,

• Children 6 months to 4-years-old,

• Children between 5 and 18 with underlying health conditions - neuromuscular disease, diabetes, underlying heart or lung conditions, or suppressed immune system

• Anyone who lives with and cares for children less than 6 months old, and

• Health care (including EMS) workers with direct patient contact.

As additional H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine is received, the vaccine will be made available to a wider risk groups and then, when supplies allow, to the general public. More information on H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine is expected in the coming weeks. Watch The Observer as more information becomes available.

How to protect yourself from illness

Since H1N1 (swine) flu is a new virus that people have little or no immunity to, it is important for people to take precautions to protect themselves and others. Illness with the new H1N1 virus has ranged from mild to severe.

While most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment, hospitalizations and deaths from infection with this virus have occurred. The virus is still circulating and there is no way to know how widespread or how severe the virus will be in the coming flu season.

So far, the swine flu virus appears to be similar in its severity to seasonal flu strains, which kills an average of 36,000 people nationwide each year. It appears that this virus is affecting the younger population at a higher rate than the normal "seasonal" flu.

More than half of those hospitalized have been school aged children so it is important to talk about proper hygiene.

The CCHD encourages people to stay informed and to follow these prevention methods:

• Sneeze or cough into your sleeve; this is the preferred method of covering your cough. If you can't do this, cover your mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands afterwards.

• Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

The CCHD is currently working with schools throughout Coconino County to encourage the use of good health habits among students and staff. In addition, the CCHD will be using the "Stop the Spread" message in public awareness campaigns throughout the flu season. You can help to spread the "Stop the Spread" message by encouraging good health manners in your workplace and sharing the prevention message above with friends and family.

Updated information is available by calling the CCHD Flu Information Line at (928) 679-7300 or by visiting www.coconino.az.gov/health. Once the "Stop the Spread" campaign is launched, you can visit StoptheSpreadAZ.org for more information.

The CCHD will continue to provide periodic updates which will include information about upcoming flu vaccination clinics.

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