Salvos fired in swine flu battle

That cough, general achiness and discomfort — it’s just about certain that it’s H1N1 swine flu, authorities say.

If you’re an adult with no other health problems and haven’t received a vaccination for the illness, it’s possible that you won’t get one, at least not immediately, though the Mesa County Health Department said that anyone who wants an H1N1 swine-flu vaccination will get one — eventually.

Short of vaccinating everyone, the Mesa County Health Department has put several measures into motion, none of them different from outbreaks of seasonal flu.

Children younger than 12 are asked not to visit any of the county’s hospitals and people who do can be issued masks to inhibit transmission of the illness. Hospitals also are limiting visitors to two to a patient.

“We do this every flu season,” Community Hospital spokeswoman Becky Jessen said.

Public health officials want younger children out of hospitals both to protect patients and to protect young people, who are more susceptible to H1N1 swine flu, said Dr. Ned Calonge, chief medical officer for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“The idea is to keep high-risk groups from going into hospitals” as visitors, Calonge said.

Twenty-three people as of Monday were hospitalized in Mesa County with H1N1 swine flu.

Typically, only hospitalized patients are being tested to confirm swine flu, Health Department spokeswoman Kristy Emerson said.

Ninety-eight percent of patients with flu-like symptoms who have been tested have been found to have H1N1 swine flu, “and we have not seen seasonal flu at this point,” Emerson said.

On that basis, health officials are telling physicians that they can diagnose H1N1 swine flu without testing, Emerson said.

H1N1 and seasonal flu are treated the same way, so, “Why wait to order tests when it’s not going to change what you do?” Calonge said.

Mesa County is awaiting its third shipment of H1N1 swine-flu vaccine after receiving shipments of 1,400 doses and 1,600 doses last week.

Younger people, families with small children and health care workers are first on the list for vaccinations.

Infants can’t be vaccinated, but the health department is urging family members to get the vaccinations.

“If you’re a new mom or new dad, your family needs to be vaccinated,” Emerson said.

Flu outbreaks tend to follow a bell curve and Mesa County “is probably on the steepest part of the curve” now, with the peak expected in November, Emerson said.

Health officials still recommend people seek vaccines for the seasonal flu, but people should be in good health when they do, or they run the risk of complications, Emerson said.


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