New Web site provides H1N1 updates

The county health department has launched a new Web site to update the public on the flu season and the H1N1 virus.

In San Luis Obispo County, 111 people have been diagnosed with the H1N1 virus and one person has died from complications of it.

Statewide 4,047 people have been diagnosed and 249 have died.

San Luis Obispo County has placed a “substantial” order for doses of the H1N1 vaccine, and on Friday the county had received 5,600 doses, which officials said was only a portion of the vaccine requested from manufacturers.

A national shortage of the vaccine has many people frustrated, including President Barack Obama. On Friday, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement saying that only 26 million doses are available and blamed manufacturers for the delays. The administration initially predicted that 120 million doses of the vaccine would be ready by mid-October.

The doses that have been received in San Luis Obispo County have been given to local pediatricians and Health Department sites for children ages 2 to 4 and parents of children less than 6 months of age, said officials. Other priority groups include pregnant women, those between 25 and 64 years old with long-term health problems, and health care workers. Distribution of the vaccine is expected to begin Monday.

Since H1N1 was first detected in the United States in April, virus symptoms have ranged from mild to severe, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Most people who have been sick have recovered without needing medical treatment, the CDC said.

However, the agency notes that, as with the annual seasonal flu, the swine flu has led to some hospitalizations and deaths in higher-risk patients with underlying medical issues.

Local school districts are preparing for arrival of the vaccine and plan to offer vaccination clinics on campuses once it arrives.

The vaccination, not mandatory, will be administered to students with parental permission.

Hospital emergency rooms and some schools around San Luis Obispo County are seeing a higher than usual level of influenza-like illness, consistent with the widespread flu at the state and national levels, said health officials.

Hoping to curb the spread of H1N1 and seasonal flu, hospitals in San Luis Obispo County revised their visitor policies last week by limiting the number of visitors per patient and restricting children.

The altered policies mark the first time local hospitals have ramped up precautions for H1N1 by enforcing an age limit for visitors.

“We are all doing the best we can in a difficult situation and will continue to keep the public apprised as more (of the vaccine) becomes available,” said Michelle Shoresman, Emergency Preparedness Program Manager.

Local flu news will be posted weekly

The county’s new Web site with weekly updated information on the H1N1 virus is www.slocounty.ca.gov/health/publichealth/swineflu.htm.

Weekly updates about local and statewide statistics and prevention efforts including vaccine distribution will be posted by county health officials. An information line, available during regular business hours, has also been created at 781-5500.

Reach AnnMarie Cornejo at 781-7939.