COC Flu Fighters Ready For Heavy Traffic
Drive-thru clinic to offer vaccine
This year's flu season is on its way and brings with it concerns over the new H1N1 virus, but Beverly Kemmerling, director of the College of the Canyons Student Health and Welfare Center says COC is well prepared to support the community by providing information and vaccines to those who need them.
From 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. on October 28, COC will put on a walk-in clinic for seasonal flu vaccinations for students and faculty. A similar drive-thru clinic will be held in the south parking lot from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on October 30. The drive-thru clinic will be open to the community, whether in cars, on motorcycles, or bicycles.
In addition to providing a public service, the drive-thru clinic also acts as a bioterrorism preparation exercise. COC is a Point of Dispensing for emergency situations and is prepared to work in conjunction with local and county first responders to treat a third of the local population within 12 hours of a disaster.
Pandemic flu occurs approximately every 40 years, with the last incident recorded in 1968. This being the case, public health officials and the college have been preparing for the last several years to cope with such an event. The college has a designated planning committee for pandemic flu. The H1N1 virus achieved pandemic dispersion last spring. The term pandemic is used by the Department of Public Health to refer to the geographic dispersion of a disease to a specified number of countries.
Human trials are providing evidence that the H1N1 vaccine will be both safe and effective. COC has already reserved 500 doses, and the first shipments are expected to arrive by mid to late October. While there is no shortage of seasonal flu vaccine, H1N1 vaccine will be distributed based on the priorities published by the Centers for Disease Control. Target groups will include those most likely to be susceptible: pregnant women and those aged six months to 24 years.
Though it can prove fatal, H1N1 affects most patients relatively mildly. By comparison, the seasonal flu regularly kills 36,000 people per year in the United States. What makes H1N1 unusual is not its severity, but who it affects. Because it is a new strain, it is expected to attack young people between six months and 24 years of age, as well as pregnant women, who are highly susceptible. In fact, people more than 50 years old may be safer, retaining a degree of immunity from exposure to the last pandemic flu.
Because H1N1 is expected to impact young people, school teachers and administrators are taking preventative measures. During a recent visit to Placerita Jr. High in Newhall, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell discussed the possibility of school closure.
"There are new regulations from the Centers for Disease Control and also the United States Federal Department of Education where even if you have one diagnosis, you need not automatically close the school," O'Connell stated. "The key for us is prevention. We know there will be some outbreaks. We know there will be some cases where students and staff contract H1N1 virus, but we need to keep it to a minimum."
Most people with flu symptoms should simply stay home and rest until 24 hours after symptoms have gone, when they are no longer contagious. Kemmerling recommends that everyone keep a social distance of at least 3 feet from people coughing. Regular hand washing and cleaning of commonly used items such as phones and doorknobs can also prevent infection. O'Connell is encouraging students and teachers to use the 'Dracula' technique to cover sneezes with the arm.
"They're calling me the count," said O'Connell.