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H1N1 (Swine Flu) Influenza Update

EHS Team
There has been some recent updates and news about the novel H1N1 (“Swine Flu”) influenza that we thought warranted passing along to clients. Information, updates and RSS feeds can be found on the CDC Swine Flu site.

The creation of a vaccine specifically against the H1N1 virus has been underway to two companies and testing on humans is beginning.  It is believed the vaccine will roll out starting in mid October with weekly release of supplies.  These will not be distributed in the usual manner so EHS is making arrangements in an effort to secure supplies ourselves or make them available to clients. It is also expected that this Fall, both the usual seasonal Influenza vaccine and the Swine Flu vaccine will be recommended.  This may even require two doses of the Swine Flu vaccine and the single dose of the annual Influenza vaccine.

Yesterday, the CDC released guidelines on prioritizing Swine Flu vaccine administration to at-risk groups.  Based on the recent British Medical Journal article, those at the greatest risk for complications of the H1N1 Influenza are children under 6 months of age and pregnant women.  The CDC guidelines list 5 groups of people at risk, as well as suggesting a prioritization of the groups in the event there is an early shortage.  From CDC  Press Release July 29, 2009:

The committee recommended the vaccination efforts focus on five key populations.  Vaccination efforts are designed to help reduce the impact and spread of novel H1N1. The key populations include those who are at higher risk of disease or complications, those who are likely to come in contact with novel H1N1, and those who could infect young infants. When vaccine is first available, the committee recommended that programs and providers try to vaccinate: The groups listed above total approximately 159 million people in the United States.

The committee does not expect that there will be a shortage of novel H1N1 vaccine, but availability and demand can be unpredictable. There is some possibility that initially the vaccine will be available in limited quantities. In this setting, the committee recommended that the following groups receive the vaccine before others: H1N1 INFLUENZA ACTIVITY
Currently, the southern hemisphere is in the midst of their Winter Influenza season and this is being monitored closely for severity.  The H1N1 Influenza remains active around the world at this time, and continues to be active throughout the summer in the US. This is unusual for influenza and is a concern with the approaching start of school.  We strongly encourage good hygiene methods in your children and efforts to ensure school policies for prompt communication of illnesses, encourage keeping even minimally ill children home (fever, cough), and liberal absentee policies.  The US government has offered guidelines for Schools, Individuals & Families and the Workplace. We encourage all of you to review this information.

As a reminder, Influenza is spread from person to person by respiratory droplets through coughing and sneezing, either directly into another’s air space or onto surfaces, which are then touched. Once infected, a person may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.  In addition, the use of prophylactic medications is being discouraged, as there have already been isolated reports of drug-resistant Swine Flu virus. The WHO and the CDC are promoting avoidance and proper hygiene as the main method for prevention, until the vaccine is available.

Finally, if any of you develop a rapid onset of flu-like symptoms, including a fever above 100 degrees, moderate cough or sore throat, and body aches (especially if you have had known exposure to H1N1 influenza or have recently traveled or had close contact with groups of people), we encourage you to call immediately to discuss and consider an office visit for evaluation.

Yours in health,
EHS Team

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