In April 2009, the first case of 2009 H1N1 virus (“swine flu”) was detected in the United States. The virus, which has been declared a stage 6 pandemic by the World Health Organization, is now found in 37 U.S. states, including California-and Santa Barbara has lost one teenager to H1N1. It spreads quickly from person to person, and humans do not have a natural immunity to it.
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department has a new H1N1 information phone line at 1-888-722-6358 to keep county residents informed about the pandemic. Spanish and English speakers can call from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday for answers to a wide range of H1N1-related questions.
If you or a family member already have the flu, there are at least two reputable on-line informational tools that may help. One tool, developed by Emory University for those over 18 years of age, helps assess whether a doctor’s attention is necessary. The other, developed by Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, helps parents assess, treat, and maintain their children’s health. Both tools are available on the Santa Barbara Country H1N1 Flu website at sbcfluinfo.org.
The Public Health Department encourages people to get vaccinated. There are two types of flu vaccine, one for seasonal flu and one for H1N1, both of which are available as a nasal spray (recommended mainly for children) or as an injection. The seasonal flu vaccination is available now.
The first batch of H1N1 vaccine was delivered to Santa Barbara pediatricians October 6. The H1N1 vaccine is being made available in three phases of priority depending on the vaccine’s availability, and the patient’s personal factors such age, medical conditions, and occupational risks.
In the first priority group are pregnant women, people who live with or care for infants younger than six months, children six months through four years old, and children from five to 18 years of age who have medical conditions that put them at high risk. Medical services personnel who have direct contact with patients are also in the first priority group.
Second priority goes to all other health-care and emergency medical services personnel, persons six months to 24 years of age, and persons 25-64 years old who have medical conditions putting them at high risk.
The last phase will include all people 25 to 64 years of age, and anyone else who wants protection from the H1N1 virus.
The Public Health Department will provide additional information as the H1N1 vaccine becomes available.
Meanwhile, seasonal flu immunizations are available at some pharmacies and at community clinics whose schedule is available at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department site.