Dane County readies for H1N1 - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Dane County readies for H1N1

DANE CO (WKOW) --  Concerns over a massive outbreak of the H1N1 flu virus has Dane County leaders preparing for the worst.

You can tell it's almost flu season at Home Health United: packets for immunizations are stacking up. They run more than 1,000 mobile flu immunization clinics. This year, there will be double the vaccinations.

Christi Archer, RN, Home Health United, says, "I think people are going to be like, 'Oh I need to do everything I can to prevent H1N1,' and they forget that seasonal influenza I just as important, they're both influenza."

They're putting these packets together four weeks early, hoping to get seasonal flu immunizations out of the way in September. That's a month before the government hopes to release the H1N1 vaccine, in mid-to-late October.

Ellen Smith, a nurse epidemiologist at St. Mary's Hospital, says, "We're going to have two viruses co-circulating together: any thing you can do to minimize your chance of getting ill, is very important."

Hospitals like St Mary's are having weekly planning meetings: discussing what to do if both employees would come down with the virus: or if there would be county-wide epidemic. And Dane County leaders are preparing school-based vaccination days for each of the 170 schools.

So far this year, there have been 606 confirmed H1N1 cases in Dane County. They estimate 6000 people were infected at one time.

County health leaders say the vaccination is not mandatory, and no child will be vaccinated without parental consent. They are recommending it: especially for anyone between the ages of six months and 24 years of age.

Dr. Thomas Schlenker, the Director of Public Health for Madison and Dane County, says, "In contrast to seasonal flu, the elderly are not considered a target group for this vaccination unless they have an underlying illness."

Following CDC guidelines, county leaders aren't recommending schools or workplaces close because of the virus. They're hoping anyone with flu-like symptoms, will simply stay home.

The H1N1 vaccine includes two shots, which need to be taken three weeks apart. You can get the seasonal flu vaccine and the first dose of the H1N1 vaccine at the same time.

Health leaders are also working on developing a fulltime nurse hotline, so that people could call at anytime if they have questions about flu-like symptoms.

Above all: they recommend following the ABCD's: A - avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes. B- Be sure to wash your hands. C- Cover your cough. And D- Don't go to school or work if you're ill.

For more information, click on the links to the left of this story.

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