Local Health officials prepare for H1N1 virus

07/10/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said today that though media coverage of the swine flu (H1N1) virus has fallen in recent months, the federal government is working hard on having a vaccine ready by mid October for what could be an expansion of the virus.

Sebelius says of particular interest to U.S. officials is the nature of the virus right now in the Southern Hemisphere.

On Thursday, some 500 state and local health officials met from around the country to talk about dealing with the threat of the H1N1 virus this fall. Sebelius says that so far the virus has not spread in the Southern Hemisphere, calling it ‘mild’, and not lethal to date.

Warren McDougle is the Epidemiology Program Manager for Hillsborough County. He says his agency is addressing the situation by continuing to evaluate those people in the county who have contracted the H1N1 virus.

McDougle said his agency is preparing for immunizations for both the regular seasonal flu and the swine flu this fall. And he is working with law enforcement and emergency management services for the possibility of a big vaccination program in the fall.

Dr. Prakash Patel is preparedness manager with the Pinellas County Health Department. He says his department is also working with local and state officials.

Dr. Patel says that the Pinellas County Health Department is also supplying free drugs to those afflicted with H1NI who are uninsured.

The federal government is working on having a vaccine ready by this fall, though no decision has been made on whether or not to actually use it.

Sebelius said that the Centers for Disease Control has officially counted 33,000 people in the U.S. with the virus, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. She says when considering those who have the virus but refuse to get tested, there is an assumption that a million people currently have H1N1.

The government has announced that there is $350 million dollars in federal grants to help the states prepare. Eight people have officially died of the virus in Florida.

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