Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Swine flu virus could extend this year's flu season

The Tennessean July 21, 2009 The swine flu virus could make this year's flu season longer and worse than normal, a state health official said. The federal government and drug manufacturers are working on a vaccine for the H1N1 virus — a strain commonly known as swine flu — which closed several area schools this spring. That vaccine won't be finished before school starts, state epidemiologist Tim Jones said. As a result, the flu season will probably start earlier, he said, "and the number of people who get the flu could be much higher than normal." Tennessee officials don't expect to see a dedicated H1N1 vaccine before mid-October. Vaccines for traditional seasonal flu should be ready earlier in the fall, about the time they usually are, but they won't protect against swine flu. "We're going to strongly recommend that everybody get both," Jones said. "You want to protect yourself against both, even though it is a hassle to get two separate vaccinations." Most people who have come down with swine flu have recovered without hospitalization but the virus has killed 211 people nationwide. In Tennessee, there have been 246 confirmed cases, with one reported death. When they are ready, Jones said, swine flu vaccines will be distributed to doctors and pharmacies the same way traditional flu vaccines are. If the need for a broader vaccination program arises, the state could operate additional clinics. — CLAY CAREYThe Tennessean

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