SLO County to get small amount of H1N1 flu vaccine next week

San Luis Obispo County will get 2,800 doses of H1N1 flu vaccine next week.

The limited amount of the vaccine means it will mostly be distributed to physicians’ offices taking care of children, according to the county Health Department. It's expected that the demand will greatly exceed the initial supply.

The vaccines will all be FluMist, which is a nasal spray containing live-attenuated influenza virus.

Available doses will be first given to preschool children ages 2 to 4, who are considered the very highest risk who can take the nasal spray rather than the injectable, killed form of the vaccine.

People are asked to not overwhelm pediatricians’ offices or the San Luis Obispo Public Health Department with calls to request a dose.

"Within the next several weeks the supply will expand so that it should be available to any member of a target priority group," said Penny Borenstein, the county's public health officer.

The targeted groups who are at greater risk for becoming infected with the H1N1 flu include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, health care and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months through 24 years of age, and people from ages 25 through 64 years with chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

Health Department employees are working with public and private schools and local colleges, in addition to health care providers and hospitals, to plan for large-scale distribution of vaccine later in the year once supply is sufficient.

The county has continued to see cases of the virus, according to the health department. Several cases have resulted in hospitalization, but the majority have not.

Symptoms of H1N1 include fever, malaise, body aches, cough, sore throat, and, in some cases, runny or stuffed nose as well as nausea and/or diarrhea.

According to Borenstein, “we anticipate that there will be many more cases, more hospitalizations and possibly more deaths associated with this virus in the coming weeks and months.”

To help prevent the flu, health officials urge people to cough and sneeze into a tissue or elbows;wash hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; and avoid close contact with sick people and attendance at large gatherings.

Those who meet the following criteria should call their doctor, but should not go to hospital emergency rooms: Have a fever higher than 100 degrees with a cough and/or sore throat; have had contact with someone known to have H1N1; or work in a school, prison or other high-risk setting.