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Archive for Saturday, December 24, 2005

Health department keeps ahead of flu-shot demand

December 24, 2005

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The state provided extra seasonal flu vaccine doses to 19 county health departments this month, but Douglas County didn't need a booster; health officials here say they still have plenty.

"It seems as though the supply was pretty well distributed around here," said Barbara Schnitker, director of nurses at the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.

As of Friday, the health department still had about 300 doses of adult seasonal flu vaccine, Schnitker said.

It ended the previous week with 480 doses. That week, the health department administered about 185 shots and also sold some to area private practices, said Sheryl Tirol Goodwin, a health department spokeswoman.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported the state's first confirmed seasonal flu case this week in south-central Kansas. The child has since recovered.

The flu season typically picks up in January and February; Schnitker said that based on what the health department has heard from area physicians, some symptoms and seasonal flu activity may be beginning on a low level.

World, federal and state health officials have also tried to heighten awareness about a potential new avian flu strain. More than 60 people in Asia have died after contracting the virus from infected birds; if the strain mutates to where it could spread from human to human, the result could be a pandemic that could not be controlled with a vaccine.

To guard against catching or spreading any type of flu: properly and frequently wash your hands, stay home when sick, cough or sneeze into your elbow and arm, eat healthy, stay active and get plenty of rest, according to the KDHE.

While a flu shot may not work against a new flu strain, it can help strengthen someone's immune system, particularly anyone older than 65 or who has a chronic illness.

"When a pandemic comes, you are better off keeping your immune system as strong as possible," Tirol Goodwin said.

One model predicted that a flu pandemic could make one in four Kansans ill, according to the KDHE.

Health officials and area government and business leaders on the Public Health Emergency Task Force will continue to plan how to keep the area's infrastructure running during a possible pandemic, said Kim Ens, disease control program coordinator for the health department.

Health officials also encouraged individuals to store enough food and water in case a pandemic ever confines people to their homes.

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