Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 30
 
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
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Swine Flu: Getting the Word Out for Fall

Ellen Gilbert

“We’re looking for as much cooperation and help from the community as possible,” said Health Officer David Henry as he described the Regional Health Commission’s preparations for addressing swine flu in Princeton.

At a recent statewide conference attended by Mr. Henry and representatives of other local health departments, participants were urged “to speak with one voice” as they planned for this fall’s flu season. “State, county, and all local health officials were urged to get the word out with regard to prevention,” said Mr. Henry.

“We’re also gearing up for the Federal Government to supply us with the H1N1 vaccine,” he noted. “It’s voluntary but the Federal and the state governments are urging us to provide it for citizens who may be wanting it.”

Although formalized policies have not yet been established, preliminary discussions are taking into account the Center for Disease Control’s suggestion that people born before 1957 may already have some immunity to the H1N1 virus as a result of exposure to an earlier version of it. At this point, Mr. Henry reported, priority will probably be given to “under 18-year olds, pregnant women, and first responders,” which would include those exposed to people who are already sick.

“The indication is that there will be a minimum of two shots for the swine flu vaccine,” he said. “People will have to come back for a second shot a minimum of 28 days after the first shot.” He noted that the department is not planning to have swine flu shots available at the flu clinics where seniors and people with chronic conditions receive their regular flu shots. Administering the H1N1 vaccine “will involve a separate clinic,” since “logistics and tracking for recipients of swine flu shots would be too complicated to include with a seasonal flu shot.”

Ultimately, Mr. Henry said, the department is relying on the State and Federal governments to establish a priority list for administering the swine flu vaccine. It is not yet clear how much vaccine will be available, although “the Federal government has contracted with at least five different manufacturers, so we hope to have a sufficient amount of vaccine once it’s approved and ready for distribution.”

“We’re looking at the Southern hemisphere (where it’s currently winter) to see if it’s going to be more virulent,” noted Regional Health Commission member and HiTOPS Director of Health Services Sandra Zordan-Friedman. “Right now there’s not any evidence that it’s going to be more virulent, but there is some preliminary evidence that it could be more contagious.” She emphasized the importance of disseminating information about prevention to residents throughout the area, and noted that “even if it doesn’t happen, we want to have a plan in place.”

The recent New York Times front-page photograph of masked row-boating campers to the contrary, camps in and around Princeton have not seen swine flu cases. “So far I don’t have any cases reported, but we’re watching it very very closely,” said YMCA Summer Camp Senior Program Director Kevin Walsh. “We’re being vigilant with our hand-washing.”

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