Health officials prep for H1N1 return
By: Scott Wente, Woodbury Bulletin
More than half of Washington County residents are in the target population for contracting the H1N1 swine flu, health officials said as they prepare for a possible surge in the virus.
The Washington County Public Health Department estimates more than 122,000 people – 52 percent of the population – are among those most susceptible to the flu strain, which officials predict will return by fall after a lull in reported cases this summer. That includes children, young adults, pregnant women, parents of infants, health-care and emergency workers and adults with certain health problems.
Epidemiologist Fred Anderson told the county board Tuesday that health officials are concerned about the potential for a “dual influenza season” of people suffering from H1N1flu and others coming down with seasonal flu. That could double the number of patients seeking medical treatment.
The H1N1 strain so far has been no more severe than seasonal influenza, but it is unpredictable. The virus could fade out, continue to circulate or get more severe.
An H1N1 vaccination is in the trial phase of production, Anderson said, but the county expects to receive doses and will distribute them to area health-care providers, who will administer the shots.
“We are really gearing up to tackle this influenza as it comes to us this fall,” public health director Lowell Johnson said.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate puts the total number of U.S. H1N1 deaths at 353. More than 5,500 people across the country have been hospitalized.
Washington County has recorded 20 confirmed cases.