New cases of the H1N1 influenza virus are being recognized daily in the state and local health departments are working hard to stay on top of the pandemic by conducting vaccination clinics at area schools and public locations. Many schools and daycares in the area are also reporting very high absentee rates.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 99.6 percent of reported influenza like viruses is the H1N1 virus in Region 6 of the United States, which includes Arkansas. Last week, the updates from the World Health Organization showed indications that the virus was leveling off, in one short week, this was proven wrong. The statistics also indicated that the virus is continuing to spread rapidly in 37 states, including Arkansas, with seven reported deaths from the virus and 56 nationally. This number is higher than the actual number of deaths annually from the seasonal flu throughout the entire season which runs from April through October. Due to the increasing numbers of occurrences of the widespread virus, on June 11, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic from the H1N1 virus due the widespread nature of the virus globally. H1N1 has been reported in 70 countries worldwide.
The actual number of people infected with the virus is nearly impossible to track, according to the CDC, because not everyone who may have the virus will seek medical attention and of those who do, not all will have specimens submitted to the CDC through their health care provider. While infants and those under 5 years of age are at increased risk of contracting the virus, this group is also most likely to be hospitalized due to the illness. CDC statistics show that those aged 5 to 24 are the group with the highest infection rate and those ages 25-49 had the highest death rates from the virus. The CDC recommends anyone under the age of 64 be vaccinated for the H1N1 virus. There is some reason to believe that those over 64 have some immunity to the virus.
The worst thing about the H1N1 virus is that it actually mimics the symptoms of the seasonal flu. Nearly all patients who contracted the virus reported fever. Other symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chills, muscle aches, runny nose, sore throat, headache, and even vomiting and diarrhea in some cases.
In order to keep families safe, there are a variety of precautions that must be taken including washing hands frequently or using an alcohol based hand sanitizer with at least 70 percent alcohol or wipes. It is recommended to wash with warm water and antibacterial hand soap for at least 20 seconds, covering the mouth when coughing with a tissue and throwing the tissue away as soon as it is used is also a way to prevent spreading the virus to others. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth and the CDC recommends if a person is ill, stay home and limit contact with others to help prevent the spread of the virus.
Those recommended by the CDC to be vaccinated for the H1N1 virus include pregnant women, household contacts for child care-givers under the age of 6, healthcare and emergency service personnel, anyone age 6 months through 24 years of age, and those from 25 to 64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.
The local health departments will be conducting vaccination clinics at schools beginning Oct. 19 with the following schedule. The clinics are free, but officials ask that if you have a Medicare or Medicaid or other insurance that you bring the card so they can file the insurance. The clinics will all begin in the morning around 9 a.m. Permission slips must be signed by the parents before the child can be vaccinated for the virus.
Sharp County Schools:
Oct. 19, Highland High School;
Oct. 20, Evening Shade School;
Oct. 23, Cave City School;
Oct. 26, Williford School.
There will be a public clinic conducted by the Sharp County Health Unit Oct. 29 at Highland First Assembly of God Church, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Fulton County schools:
Oct. 26, Salem Schools;
Oct. 29, Viola Schools;
Oct. 30, Mammoth Spring Schools.
Izard County schools:
Oct. 22, Calico Rock Schools;
Oct. 26, Izard County Consolidated Schools;
Oct. 27, Melbourne Schools.
Fulton County will hold a "Mass Clinic" at the Health Clinic from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Nov. 2, where season flu vaccines will be available. Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance holders will be billed. Those in attendance without insurance will be able to receive the shots for free. Those wishing to receive the H1N1 are asked to call the Health Clinic before hand to check for availability.
The Arkansas Department of Health has encouraged Arkansans to go to www.healthyarkansas.com for information on the 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu in the state.