Vaccination provides protection when third wave of H1N1 hitsThe first two waves of the H1N1 influenza were fairly mild, but health officials hope people won't put off getting flu vaccinations for the wrong reasons.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
The first two waves of the H1N1 influenza were fairly mild, but health officials hope people won't put off getting flu vaccinations for the wrong reasons.
It's too soon to stamp the words "The End" on the first influenza epidemic of the century, according to Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and the former Minnesota state epidemiologist.
"He's expecting a third wave," said Vicki Iocco of the disease prevention and control program at the Goodhue County Public Health Service.
In his weekly briefly, Osterholm advised health officials that despite talk of it being mild, "this pandemic has extracted a severe price, particularly among children and younger adults, is far from over, and ... it's critical to get as many people as possible vaccinated as soon as possible."
Iocco agreed with his concern.
"Nobody knows when, or how it will look," she said. "Historically, pandemics can last up to two years - often with two to three waves of activity."
Since the H1N1 vaccine was made available to the general public this past week, the county agency is among health services making a push to vaccinate as many people as possible. Earlier, it was restricted to people in several at-risk groups.
"Mostly adults" turned out for a clinic Thursday afternoon at First Lutheran Church, Iocco said. "There seems to be enough vaccine available for everyone."
The service is holding public flu shot clinics from 2 to 4 p.m. every Tuesday at the office, 512 West Ave., and additional clinics throughout the county.
In addition to concern about H1N1 influenza, Iocco noted, "There has already been some regular seasonal flu in the state."
People need to get both vaccinations, she said, because they can get both seasonal and H1N1 flu.
The regular vaccine protects against three strains of flu which initially were expected. The H1N1 came later, so it is not included in the seasonal shot this year.
"Likely it will be included in next year's 'recipe,'" she said.
Getting one shot - seasonal or H1N1 - does not protect against the other type, Iocco said.
However, if a person has had the H1N1 influenza and it was confirmed through testing, it is not necessary to get that vaccine.
"We're just finishing up the last of the seasonal flu vaccine," she said. Anyone who has not had that vaccine should get it now, while it's still available.
As more H1N1 vaccine becomes available to them, clinics likely will be scheduled in retail locations including pharmacies, Iocco said.
More than half of the U.S. population remains susceptible to infection from the flu virus, Osterholm said - after you subtract all the people who have had the H1N1 flu, received vaccinations or have residual immunity from vaccinations prior to the 1950s.
"Given these numbers, I can't think of any good reason why we won't have a serious third wave of disease in the Northern Hemisphere during this upcoming traditional winter influenza season," he concluded in the briefing.
For a list of locations and general information about flu clinics, people can go on the county Web site, www.co.goodhue.mn.us, or the state site, health.state.mn.us.