Local

Best bet is to call your doctor

The demand for the H1N1 vaccine remains high, and the county Public Health Department is advising pregnant women and people in other priority groups to contact their health professional directly to get the shot.

The department reports 21 hospitalizations countywide to date, and one death consistent with H1N1 infection. There have been only 111 laboratory confirmations of the disease, although health professionals in the county, state and nation believe that the predominant influenza strain in the community currently is H1N1.

The Public Health Department itself does not have extra vaccines at this point, and it will make announcements as they become available, according to spokeswoman Michelle Shoresman.

The latest shipment to the county of 5,600 doses has been distributed to health professionals who will administer them, and the county plans to start giving the shots to children at a few small schools soon.

The shortage locally reflects a nationwide issue.

Because of the number of cases, testing to confirm H1N1 has almost ceased except in special cases. The medical community is now making diagnoses based upon the fact that regional tests have shown it is the primary influenza in the population at this time.

This season is unusual in that regular seasonal influenza often comes later in the year after high-risk groups have received the flu shot.

In this case, the vaccines are arriving slowly even as the number of cases is increasing.

The priority groups for vaccines as determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are: pregnant women, those aged 6 months to 24 years; those aged 24 to 64 with long-term health problems; those who live with or care for infants younger than six months, and health care and emergency workers.

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