Flu Activity in Maine and the US
We continue to see H1N1 in Maine, including three new hospitalizations this week – one in a child younger than 5, another child younger than 18, and an adult in the 50-64 age range. There was also an outbreak of H1N1 at a long term care facility. Although H1N1 flu activity has decreased in Maine in recent weeks, there have been increases in H1N1 illness in other areas of the U.S.
Many people are still susceptible to this virus and would benefit from vaccination. Being vaccinated not only protects you, but it helps protect the people around you who are more likely to suffer serious complications from the flu.
Flu is unpredictable, but it often comes in waves. There was a mild surge in the spring of 1957, followed by a large surge in the fall, another large one in the winter of 1958, and others following that with the virus circulating for several years. All pandemics are different, but most have multiple waves of illness and death.
H1N1 Vaccine Supply
There is now plenty of vaccine in Maine, so it’s an excellent time for people who have not been vaccinated against H1N1 and seasonal flu to do so before the next wave of disease. Nearly 800,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine have been distributed statewide since October. Close to 500 health care providers in the state have received H1N1 vaccine. Call your health care provider, or get the list of public vaccine clinics by calling 211 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. or visiting www.maineflu.gov (all clinics posted in bold are free).
Maine CDC recommends that health care providers offer H1N1 vaccine to every patient at every visit, every hospitalization, or other health care encounter, assuming contraindications do not exist.
Maine CDC issued a health alert on Jan. 11 to reinforce recommendations for early treatment of patients with increased risk of complications from influenza. Early treatment for influenza may prevent secondary bacterial infections. This alert can be viewed here: http://www.maine.gov/tools/whatsnew/index.php?topic=DHHS-HAN&id=88550&v=alert
If you think you have the flu, cannot reach your doctor, and your health plan does not have a nurse call line available, you may call 2-1-1 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to be connected with a health professional who can assess your symptoms.
Information for People with Chronic Underlying Health Conditions
Pneumonia, bronchitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, sinus infections and ear infections are examples of flu-related complications. The flu can also make chronic health problems worse. H1N1 has caused more deaths among adults with chronic medical conditions than in any other group. All 18 H1N1-related deaths in Maine have been in adults with chronic underlying conditions.
If you have a high-risk condition, getting vaccinated is the single best action you can take to protect yourself from the flu. Still, most adults with high-risk conditions have not been vaccinated yet. Many people in these groups do not realize that their medical conditions increase their risk. The following conditions put people are risk for flu-related complications:
· heart disease
· chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis);
· diabetes and other endocrine disorders;
· neurological or neurodevelopmental disorders, and especially those that affect lung capacity (muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, strokes, etc);
· blood disorders, such as sickle cell disease;
· kidney and liver disorders;
· weakened immune system due to disease or medication, such HIV/AIDS, cancer, or steroids;
· long-term aspirin therapy in people younger than 19.
If you have a chronic health condition and have not yet received your vaccine against H1N1, get one now. Contact your health care provider, specialist, call 2-1-1 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for a list of public clinics, or check www.maineflu.gov (clinics listed in bold are free).
If you have an underlying health condition and experience flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider immediately to receive a prescription for antiviral medications (such as Tamiflu®).
To read the full update: bit.ly/8CFsPI