The Flu And You
The World Health Organization listed the H1N1 virus as a pandemic in June.
This classification forced a rush on the development of a vaccine, but the wait to inoculate is over.
Starting October 9, small batches of the H1N1 vaccine will be made available to Los Angeles County.
The vaccine, according to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health (DPH), will be provided to private health care providers in the form of a nasal spray called FluMist.
The initial vaccine is designed to be administered to those in the priority groups, which include young people two to 24 years old, healthcare and emergency service workers, and people who live with or care for infants less than six months of age.
Because the FluMist delivers a small dose of a live virus it is not recommended for pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions or weakened immune systems, and people with a history of asthma or active wheezing.
"While the FluMist nasal spray vaccine may not be appropriate for everyone, we do encourage those who can receive this form of the vaccine to get it," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, Director of Public Health and Health Officer. "We especially encourage eligible, school-aged children to receive the FluMist H1N1 vaccine. We had expected to see an increase in flu cases once the school year started, and those predictions have come true."
The FluMist will continue to be made available, but the DPH reports that large batches of the vaccine in injection form will be made available by the end of October.
The injection vaccine contains only dead forms of the virus, making it suitable for everyone including pregnant women.
Because the first stage of the vaccine is only doled out in limited numbers it may be harder to get, but when the injection vaccine is released in large numbers later this month it should be available at many locations including County Clinics, CVS and some Walgreens pharmacies. These locations are in addition to local health care providers.
While the H1N1 virus, formerly called the 'swine flu,' is separate from traditional influenza, Dr. Greg Pousson, emergency doctor at Providence Holy Cross Hospital, recommends getting both vaccines to be extra safe.
"The vaccine is like a cheat sheet for your body so when it has that big test, which is the infection from the true virus, it's ready and revved up to go," said Pousson. "It doesn't need to figure out where it's located and then build up the antibodies to fight the virus, its already ready to go."
College of the Canyons will do its part to minimize the spread of the seasonal flu by holding a Drive-Thru Flu Shot Clinic on October 30, between 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Motorist can cruise through the COC Valencia's campus and receive their inoculation without even getting out of the car. Most of the shots will be administered by COC's nursing students, but will be overseen by the DPH, Santa Clarita Sheriff's deputies and firefighters.
The event will also test the Cities Readiness Initiative to help prepare the community for a potential pandemic.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has also given some recommendations for staying healthy during this flu season:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- Stay home if you get sick. CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
Image provided by Center for Disease Control and Prevention