Spectrum Health’s Visiting Nurse Association cancelled all public seasonal flu clinics after last weekend because of a shortage of the vaccine. Clinics at both Cedar Springs City Hall and Cedar Springs Public Schools were part of the cancellation.
According to Spectrum Health’s VNA, they ordered their supply of seasonal flu vaccine last February, basing their order on a typical flu season. However, public concern about H1N1 appears to have encouraged a larger than expected number of individuals to seek inoculations for the regular seasonal flu.
The season flu vaccine covers three types of flu strain, but not the H1N1 (or swine flu). A vaccine for that strain is expected for the general public shortly.
According to doctors, the H1N1 flu is the flu that people are experiencing right now, and West Michigan has experienced a rapid increase in the last week of people coming down with it or being exposed to it. However, experts say it is not much different than regular season flu, and most recover at home without complications. There was one death last week in Kent County attributed to the flu, but the woman had other underlying health complications.
“People have a lot of questions about getting the flu vaccine and when to seek medical services,” said David J. Dobbie, MD, infectious disease specialist, Spectrum Health Medical Group. “Most symptoms can and should be treated at home. Only the most severe illnesses should require a visit to an urgent care center or emergency room. These guidelines should help people who are concerned and want to do the right thing.”
• Sore throat
• Fever (sometimes) – a temperature greater than 100° F or 37.8° C
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Diarrhea (sometimes)
• Vomiting (sometimes)
It appears that 2009 H1N1 will be the predominant strain of flu this year, said Dobbie. With the early onset of flu season this year, people experiencing any of the above symptoms should stay home to avoid spreading the flu.
“It will take anywhere from five to 10 days for the illness to run its course. For most people, they should try to stay home, rest, drink plenty of liquids and take acetaminophen or an anti-inflammatory medicine,” Dobbie added.
Individuals experiencing these symptoms who become concerned about their illness should call their primary care physician for advice. Urgent Care Centers and emergency rooms should be used only for people experiencing the following:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Not waking up or not interacting
• So irritable the child doesn’t even want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
• Fever with a rash
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or stomach
• Sudden dizziness
• Severe or persistent vomiting
The CDC recommends that individuals stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone. The fever should be gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine. If a person must go out in public while sick, they should wear a facemask if possible, wash their hands to keep from spreading germs, and cover their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or cloth (not their hands).
More information can be found at spectrum-health.org/flu.