Health workers, parents prepare for flu season

July 29, 2009 3:25:11 PM PDT
Area health professionals and some parents are already gearing up for the flu season ahead. What can you do to prepare? Use good hand washing, sneezing and coughing habits and instill those habits in your children.

Health officials encourage healthy habits as we head into the back to school season and it's unclear when or if the H1N1 vaccine will be available.

With three children under four in daycare, Marycela Mata is aware of H1N1.

"They are so little they put everything in their mouth and there's a lot of people who travel. It's a concern. It's scary," said Marycela Mata, parent.

On Wednesday, 6-month-old Jimmy gets a regular check-up, but Mata's doctor takes any opportunity these days to talk with parents about flu precautions. Her doctor is also the director of the pediatric primary care center at Rush University Medical Center.

"We are encouraging everyone to be immunized for seasonal flu and we also spend a fair amount of time encouraging families to recognize the sign of flu fever cough achiness," said Dr. Beth Volin, Rush University Medical Center.

Chicago health officials are monitoring spread of the virus and preparing for the possibility of mass vaccinations for H1N1.

"We will partner with private sector providers clinics, pharmacies hospitals long term care facilities to get that vaccine out but we will also be coordinating mass immunization clinics," said Dr. Julie Morita, Chicago Department of Public Health.

Baxter in Deerfield is among the companies working on an H1N1 vaccine. While Baxter is currently not contracted with the US, it has received orders for 80 million doses from other countries.

"Baxter has advanced full scale production of H1N1 influenza pandemic vaccine pending final approvals should be able to ship limited quantities of the vaccine by the end of this month or early August," said Chris Bona, director of communications, bioscience, Baxter.

While work is under way to prevent the spread of H1N1, for now doctors are sharing information with each other and their patients to take precautions now.

"If your children have any symptoms along those lines, talking about how very important it is to keep them home and away from other children," said Dr. Volin.

While local health officials are preparing for mass immunization, it is still unclear when or if the CDC will recommend the H1N1 vaccine or if the vaccine will be ready.

Data from the human trials of the H1N1 vaccine won't be available until late September. Only after those trials will health officials determine recommendations about using the vaccine.


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