Public Health Announces Plans for Flu Season

Wednesday, August 26, 2009 - 9:13am

Madison Mayor & County Exec. Join Public Health Director in Information/Education Effort

The director of Public Health Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) Dr. Thomas Schlenker, joined Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk to provide details about PHMDC's plans to deal with the upcoming flu season.

"PHMDC is well prepared for the flu season," Dr. Schlenker said. "We have used what we have learned from the H1N1 outbreak during this spring and summer to prepare for the expected resurgence of influenza this fall and winter. One important fact is that the large majority of individuals who became ill in Dane County had relatively mild illnesses and recovered at home without medical care or influenza-specific medication."

H1N1 (swine flu) first appeared in Dane County in April of 2009. The virus spread rapidly, peaked during May and June and persisted through the rest of the summer at lower rates. While there have been over 600 confirmed cases of H1N1 in Dane County to date, the actual number of cases is estimated to be about 6,000. Sixty-nine percent of confirmed cases were among those 24 years old and younger while only 3% for those 55 and older.

Eighteen individuals were hospitalized. Most had severe pneumonia requiring assisted ventilation and intensive care. To date, 17 recovered and were discharged home. One adult, with very serious underlying disease, died. Cause of death was determined to be complications from a pre-existing condition with H1N1 as a significant contributing factor.

During the cold and dry weather of the months ahead, when influenza is more likely to spread, PHMDC will coordinate vaccinations, disseminate information and work with other levels of government. "I'm confident PHMDC is prepared with a well planned and coordinated approach to this flu season," Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz said. County Executive Kathleen Falk added, "These efforts will require the active collaboration of many county and state agencies, as well as schools, hospitals, providers and other private sector organizations." Local hospitals are meeting to consider how to cooperate and support each other should there be strains on services. PHMDC is consulting with public and private schools to arrange for vaccination clinics at approximately 170 schools beginning in October. Also, PHMDC and local health systems are working together to construct a full time nurse-on-call, influenza telephone line.

The first line of defense against influenza is vaccination. Seasonal influenza vaccine will be available by mid September. H1N1 vaccination is expected to become available by mid-October and will require two shots, with the second shot occurring 3 to 4 weeks after the first. The primary target groups for H1N1 vaccination differ from seasonal flu in that the young rather than the elderly are the primary target.

The priority target groups for the H1N1 flu vaccine are:
• pregnant women
• household contacts and caregivers of infants younger than six months
• healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
• all people from 6 months through 24 years of age
• adults with underlying conditions

Influenza vaccination is voluntary. Physicians and clinics will have access to the vaccine and most people in target groups, especially those with underlying conditions, pregnant women, and pre-school age children, should be vaccinated by their primary care providers. Vaccination will also be available to school-age children at school-based clinics which are expected to begin in October. Children will be vaccinated only with written consent of their parent.

PHMDC follows CDC guidelines that encourage schools to stay open during flu season. The 2009 H1N1 outbreak this past spring demonstrated that school closures are very disruptive and do little if anything to retard transmission of the virus.

The best advice for most people who get the flu is to stay at home, get lots of bed rest, drink lots of liquids and take ibuprophen (Motrin®, Advil®) or acetaminophen (Tylenol®) for relief from the symptoms. Children younger than 18 should not take aspirin. While anti-viral medications to treat the flu are available, they are not recommended or needed for most people. While influenza can be a very unpleasant illness, people usually do not require the care of a physician, or a trip to the emergency room unless there are complications such as difficulty breathing.

The symptoms of both H1N1 and seasonal flu are the same and tend to appear quickly. They include:
Fever, dry cough, sore throat, chills, body aches.

If you need to see your doctor, call your clinic first so you can be helped without unnecessarily exposing others. It is generally recommended that people not return to normal activities until at least 24 hours after all the symptoms are gone. Do not expose other people while you have active symptoms.

You can make a big difference in preventing the flu by following these simple "ABCD" steps:
• Avoid touching mouth, nose, or eyes
• Be sure to wash hands often.
• Cover your cough (use your sleeve)
• Don't go to school or work if you are ill

If you need further guidance or advice about the flu, you should call your health care provider. PHMDC will have nurses on call during normal business hours to answer questions about the flu. You may reach them at (608) 266-4821.

PHMDC will be posting regular updates during the flu season on its website, www.publichealthmdc.com. The site will provide timely updates for a variety of audiences including schools, businesses and the general public, with links to other information resources.

-END-

NEWS RELEASE
Public Health Madison & Dane County

Contacts: 
  • Jeff Golden, (608) 243-0302