Thursday, April 8, 2010

Flu Update 4/8/10

What’s New with Flu?

Flu Activity. Virtually all detected influenza activity seen across the country is with the pandemic strain of H1N1. Most states are reporting sporadic, local, or no flu activity. The full national report can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm.

Maine’s influenza activity was coded “local” this week, mainly because of continued reports of influenza-like illness. Maine’s weekly influenza surveillance report can be found at: http://www.maine.gov/dhhs/boh/influenza_surveillance_weekly_updates.shtml. Maine and the U.S. continue to see virtually no seasonal influenza virus strains except for some occasional type B. Almost all the detectable influenza viruses remain the pandemic strain of H1N1 influenza.

Fall Flu Vaccine Campaign. Flu vaccine is recommended for all people for the 2010-2011 season. Although Maine CDC does not and never has provided the majority of seasonal flu vaccine in Maine, we are able to purchase sufficient seasonal flu vaccine for the 2010-2011 season for:
· all Maine children ages 6 months to 18 years-old;
· employees of schools that are providing onsite vaccine clinics on school days;
· pregnant women and their partners;
· nursing home employees and residents;
· high risk adults in limited public health settings, the scope and number of such settings determined by our vaccine supply.

The decision on which populations we plan on purchasing vaccine for is based on several factors, including: populations designated by some of the vaccine funding sources available (federal funding sources for flu vaccine for some children); populations without other easy access to vaccine (homeless shelter residents); and people who are at high risk for severe complications (pregnant women, nursing home residents). Seniors and health care workers are in high priority groups for vaccine, but generally have existing access to flu vaccine that is not dependent on state dollars.

Please note that, as in years past, the only state-supplied vaccine earmarked for health care workers is for those who work in nursing homes. However, we strongly encourage all health care personnel, including EMS, to be vaccinated.

Anyone wishing to provide state-supplied flu vaccine in the fall must be a registered Maine Immunization Program (MIP) provider; those who are not currently MIP providers must register by April 30. Vaccine order forms will be sent to all registered providers by the middle of May. More detailed instructions, including a timeline for fall flu vaccine campaign activities, are available in this Health Alert.

A conference call for those interested in providing state-supplied seasonal flu vaccine in the fall will be held from 12 noon to 1 p.m. Monday, April 12. To participate, call 1-800-914-3396 and enter pass code 473623#. During calls, please press *6 to mute your line and to un-mute when you are actively participating.

Don’t Forget Spring Break. This US CDC web page provides information and links for travelers who want to reduce their risk of becoming sick with 2009 H1N1. With spring break coming up and large numbers of students expected to travel both domestically and internationally, vaccination of college-age students, who have been hard-hit by illness during this pandemic, continues to be recommended. Vaccine clinics can be located by calling 211 or by visiting http://www.maineflu.gov/. The free clinics are in bold font.

Maine Among Top States in H1N1 Vaccine Coverage:

US CDC recently issued two reports that highlight H1N1 vaccine successes as well as opportunities to improve future vaccination rates. Maine is among the top states for vaccine coverage against H1N1 flu for all ages.

Maine’s vaccine rate for those in US CDC’s highest priority groups was tied for first place among all states at 51%, compared with the national rate of 33%. These highest priority groups include pregnant women, all people ages six months to 25 years-old, people ages 25 to 65 with chronic health conditions, and health care workers, including emergency medical services personnel.

60% of Maine’s children ages 6 months to 17 years were vaccinated, compared to 37% nationally. Maine’s childhood vaccination rate was tied for second with Vermont and Massachusetts. Rhode Island was first.

Seniors in Maine also had among the highest vaccination rates in the nation. 40% of Maine residents age 65 and older were vaccinated, which is nearly twice the national rate of 22%, and tied for first among all states.

Maine’s overall rate of vaccinating 37% of all people older than 6 months is significantly higher than the national average of 24%

We at Maine CDC are exceedingly grateful to the thousands of Mainers who worked hard to achieve such remarkable success!

Ongoing Flu Issues:

Flu activity, caused by either 2009 H1N1 or seasonal flu viruses, may rise and fall, but is expected to continue, especially in areas that did not see large surges in disease and/or did not have high vaccine rates. Testing for and reporting of cases and outbreaks to Maine CDC continue to be important strategies to track the virus’s spread.

It is still important to continue to offer the H1N1 vaccine to those at high risk for severe disease or those who are in a high priority category and who may have been missed earlier. If someone is vaccinated now, they can still receive the seasonal flu vaccine in the fall, which will contain the 2009 H1N1 strain. Those who should be focused on for ongoing H1N1 flu vaccination include:
women who are now pregnant;
infants who are now 6 months of old or older;
caregivers and household contacts of newborns and other young infants;
people 65 and older who may have been waiting for others to be vaccinated;
those with chronic diseases;
all young people ages 6 months to 25 years of age; and
all health care workers and EMS, including caregivers of people with developmental and/or physical disabilities.

In particular, US CDC strongly urges people with underlying health conditions and those over age 65 to get vaccinated against H1N1.

Vaccine supplies are plentiful and the circulating virus still closely matches the one in the pandemic vaccine. We have excellent safety data on the H1N1 vaccine.

Disposing of and Reporting Unused/Expired Vaccine
US CDC issued this Q&A on 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine with long-dated expirations. US CDC is also currently conducting a survey to determine how state laws affect the ability to ship expired vaccine for disposal. The results of this survey will help determine CDC’s centralized national system for vaccine disposal.

Discarded vaccine needs to be reported to Maine CDC. Providers should report the doses discarded on the same weekly reporting form for vaccine administration – please note any discarded doses in the space between the two “Total” cells at the lower right corner of the form with a mark of “Expired (and discarded) doses.”

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