County waits for vaccine amid exaggerated epidemic
The Ellis County Press
WAXAHACHIE – Demand for the H1N1, or "swine flu" vaccine, has not kept up with supply, as county officials await shipments of the vaccines for the population to combat the epidemic that a CBS News report cited as "exaggerated."
"There are doses of H1N1 vaccine in the county, but we do not have any figures on how many, or which providers have how many [etcetera]," said Diana Buckley, the countys communications director.
Buckley said fire and police departments are waiting for their vaccines first before having the shipments when they arrive for the "target populations" - people six months of age to 24, pregnant women; people over 65; and people with compromised immune systems.
"Vaccinating first responders early helps to ensure that first responders are available to do what they do, which is help and protect all of us in so many different situations, not just the H1N1 pandemic," Buckley said.
Amid the waiting, anti-vaccination activists throughout Ellis County are promoting a recent CBS News report that shows a state-by-state H1N1 investigation into the testing of cases for the flu.
According to CBS, when suspected victims come down with chills, fever, cough and other flu-like symptoms, 83 to 97 percent of the time the illness is caused by other viruses or bacteria and by influenza as little as threepercent and at most 17 percent of the time.
"The results reveal a pattern that surprised a number of health care professionals we consulted," the CBS report stated, which is posted at CBSNews.com.
"The vast majority of cases were negative for H1N1 as well as seasonal flu, despite the fact that many states were specifically testing patients deemed to be most likely to have H1N1 flu, based on symptoms and risk factors, such as travel to Mexico."
Some colleges and universities issued press releases before the school year began informing of plans to prepare for the H1N1 pandemic even if states didnt test for that particular strain.
Schools in Texas have sent students home, meanwhile, if they failed to obtain the necessary vaccine. Currently, Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that has made it a civil fine for adults who dont vaccinate themselves or their children.
Dozens of other news agencies reported Oct. 26 that Dallas County health officials admitted the nasal spray used on some patients, mainly children, included live H1N1 viruses.
The health director, Dr. John Carlo, however, was recently on a public relations offensive attempting to clarify remarks that swine flu was "cultured in a laboratory."
"I’m 36, and I don’t blog," Carlo told the Dallas Observer, an alternative weekly. "But it hit the blogosphere very [emphasis his] quickly, and we need to figure out how to be available to that media as well.
"We’ve been tracking this element of the news, and I went back and reviewed the information and where this came from — and to be honest, I didn’t see how that impression had been directed.
"But, of course, at this point, this is something completely natural. There should be no consideration this is man-made.
"This is something that has happened throughout history. Swine flu isn’t rare. We see it every other year in the U.S.
"The point was, it’s a completely new virus and something not seen before anywhere — this particular strain of swine flu."
Carlo clarified his remarks and has other Dallas County officials working on statements to the media.
"They took the swab off the individual infected with the illness and grew it in the lab," he said.
"It’s confusing, but it certainly wasn’t created in a lab. I guess it seems obvious for the medical professionals. I’m working with my advisers to make it clear on the messaging.
"We definitely don’t want to convey that it was created in the lab."
Why is this new H1N1 virus sometimes called "swine flu?"
This virus was originally referred to as "swine flu" because laboratory testing showed that many of the genes in this new virus were very similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America. But further study has shown that this new virus is very different from what normally circulates in North American pigs. It has two genes from flu viruses that normally circulate in pigs in Europe and Asia and avian genes and human genes. Scientists call this a "quadruple reassortant" virus.
Points of Dispensing (POD)
Ellis County officials have protocols in place during a national emergency and utilize what are called points of dispensing, or POD. Medicines and/or other health-protecting supplies will be dispensed from a centralized location. People who are healthy will be asked to go to a POD location to get medicines that will keep them from getting sick.