H1N1 vaccine arrives

BY SAM LANE | OCTOBER 09, 2009 7:20 AM

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The Johnson County Public Health Department received 500 doses of the nasal H1N1 vaccine on Thursday, but UI students are not yet allowed to be vaccinated.

Rather, county health care employees will receive these doses, a portion of the 18,000 the state received this week. This includes those providing emergency services and workers with direct patient contact, according to a county press release.

A more substantial quantity of the H1N1 vaccine is expected to arrive later this month, said Doug Beardsley, the department’s director.

The number of doses a county received was based on its population, and Polk, the state’s largest county, received about 1,300 vaccines.

The Iowa Department of Public Health recommended only health-care workers be vaccinated with the original doses.

The UI Hospitals and Clinics will get 414 of the county’s doses, said UI spokesman Tom Moore. The vaccine will be given to employees in such areas as the Family Care Center, obstetrics/gynecology, and emergency medicine, he said.

The vaccine, known as the live attenuated influenza vaccine or “FluMist,” is a nasal spray that is not intended for individuals older than 50, children younger than 24 months, or pregnant women because of adverse effects found during previous studies.

But for most people, the vaccine is perfectly safe, officials said.

The UI’s H1N1 situation has remained fairly static. Several weeks ago, the UI reported seeing about 200 students coming in with flu-like symptoms.

The UI does not have a clear estimate of the number of cases on campus, said Ann Laros, the medical director at UI Student Health.

“Anywhere from 3 to 5 percent of the student population may have H1N1… plus or minus 5 percent,” she joked.

Since the UI suspended its H1N1 testing over a month ago, officials have gathered rough estimates of students who exhibit an influenza-like illness. Because the seasonal flu rarely shows up on campus before November, all students who have an influenza-like illness are presumed to have the novel H1N1 virus.

Laros said that since Labor Day, when student health saw a large number of students with influenza-like illnesses, the office has seen a decrease in students with symptoms.

“We’re waiting,” said UI campus medical officer Dan Fick. “It hasn’t been the big event we thought it’d be. Cases are just coming in little waves.”

For students who exhibit an influenza-like illness, the Westlawn Pharmacy at UI Student Health offers “flu kits,” including a protective mask, ibuprofen, hand sanitizer, tissues, and a digital thermometer.

At the end of September, the UI launched its website dedicated to providing H1N1 and seasonal influenza information, Fick said. As far as e-mails and communication with students, UI officials are cautious.

“If you send the same message without any change, people stop getting the message,” Fick said. “If we have a large outbreak they’ll read and listen to the information.”

Lisa James, the administrative director for Student Health, said students, in general, are following the UI’s recommendations.

“Students are getting the message,” James said. “They’ve shown good compliance with the protective methods and cases aren’t escalating.”

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