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Public Health offers recommendations to limit spread of swine flu

King County residents were urged today to follow recommendations to limit the spread of H1N1 influenza (swine flu) made by Public Health – Seattle & King County. In addition, the King County Board of Health passed a resolution calling for community participation in responding to influenza according to recommendations set forth by health officials.

The resolution today supported Public Health’s H1N1 plan. Key elements of the plan include:

• Developing a vaccine distribution system that ensures those at highest risk can receive vaccine first and others as soon as it becomes available. Vaccine will be available through normal distribution channels such as health-care providers

• Communicating with the public on the appropriate use of health-care resources and when to seek professional care

• Preparing and assisting the health-care system to manage a surge in demand

• Working with schools to protect staff and students from infection and to follow Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines

“Our whole community has a role to play in minimizing the impact of this new virus,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, Board of Health chair. “Elected officials who assure our efforts are well coordinated, health-care partners who get their clients vaccinated, a media that keeps the public well informed, and a public that acts on advice from Public Health are all necessary to reduce the spread of H1N1 and keep our community as healthy as possible.”

“A vaccine will become available next month, which is good news for the whole community,” said Dr. David Fleming, director and health officer for Public Health – Seattle & King County. “If you become ill before you get vaccinated, stay home to protect yourself and reduce transmission of influenza.”

Highest risk groups for complications from H1N1 influenza include:

• Pregnant women

• Household contacts and caregivers for children under 6 months

• Health-care workers

• Emergency medical services personnel

• 6 months to 24 year olds

• People with chronic conditions

At today’s briefing, Public Health said that to date in King County, H1N1 influenza has been confirmed in 567 people, 73 people have been hospitalized and three people have died. The first H1N1 influenza illnesses were last spring, and the number of illnesses declined during the summer months.

Public Health’s influenza surveillance system now shows an increase of influenza in the community, although the level of flu is relatively low. Public Health has not seen an increase in serious cases or deaths. Flu activity is expected to continue to increase over the coming weeks to potentially high levels. H1N1 is expected to be the predominant flu virus in the community this flu season.

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