Regardless of “confirmed cases” that are proven through rigorous laboratory tests, more than likely, if the doctor says you have the flu today it’s the H1N1 variety - leaving many in search a vaccine before its too late.


Regardless of “confirmed cases” that are proven through rigorous laboratory tests, more than likely, if the doctor says you have the flu today it’s the H1N1 variety - leaving many in search a vaccine before its too late.
That’s a big problem, however, as federal and state public health officials struggle to obtain millions of doses from four vaccine companies, who are also under the gun, and then distribute the inoculate to thousands of health-care providers throughout the U.S. and here in Wayne County.
Dr. Rosita Liu, an infectious disease specialist with Wayne Memorial Hospital, said that due to the high volume of flu tests requested by health-care providers, especially in light of the “swine” flu epidemic, the state Department of Health is only lab testing samples from severe infections.
Statistics, like the number of confirmed cases in Wayne County, 20 as of September, mean nothing but confirmation that H1N1 is indeed around and spreading as any influenza is apt to do.
“99% of the people whose flu tests are sent for (lab) confirmation ... have the novel 2009 strain of H1N1,” said Liu.
H1N1 is merely a new strain of the seasonal flu, and it will likely become the “new” seasonal flu as viral strains alter through time, said Dr. Stephen Ostroff, acting physician general with the state public health department.
“We fully anticipate there will be additional waves of this illness in the future,” said Ostroff in a press conference on Thursday, adding that throughout the state there are “high levels” of H1N1 infections especially in comparison to what is normally expected for flu season.
“I am somewhat surprised at the magnitude of the increase in the past week or two,” he said. “We would expect that trend to continue over the next several weeks.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, most people infected with this new virus have recovered without requiring medical treatment; although some deaths and hospitalizations have been reported, as often happens with seasonal flu.
Although the new strain is behaving differently, said Liu, in that it is targeting “younger patients at an unusually high rate” and “occurring at a time of the year when we don't typically see such intense flu activity.”

Scarce Vaccine Availability

The true problem today is a complete lack of locally available H1N1 vaccinations including here in Wayne County.
A limited state-wide roll out of the H1N1 vaccine is underway, but there is a bottleneck with demand far outpacing available supply, said Michael Huff, a deputy secretary with the state health department. (“Regular” flu vaccines don’t prevent H1N1 infection).
“We understand this frustration and we are working diligently,” said Huff. “We have the need. We just don’t have the doses.”
Although the state health department has rolled out an estimated 788,600 doses so far, Wayne County appears to be on the short-end of the stick.
Wayne Memorial Hospital is still waiting for H1N1 vaccine, said spokesperson Lisa Champeau, along with several community medical centers here - which provide services for pregnant woman that are particularly at-risk for infection.
County school districts, which have H1N1 free vaccination programs ready to roll for students, have also not received a single dose. A small batch, however, has been distributed to a handful of physicians who practice here, The Wayne Independent has learned; the newspaper was not able to individually identify them.
“We are trying to get the vaccine quickly out,” said Larry Stetson, executive director of the state health department’s northeastern Pa. office. “We’re trying to do the best of our ability. We’re just as frustrated as the people that are waiting for it.”
He was unable to provide a timetable as to when Wayne County can expect more doses, nor could he pinpoint who exactly received a batch.
“There have been sites in Wayne County that have received vaccine,” he said.
The state health department expects to meet demand in the coming months, and will continue its distribution of an estimated seven-million total doses as it becomes available from the four vaccine producing companies.
Today, however, state health officials are about 1.1 million doses short of what they would like out there now.