County prepares for swine flu

EVERETT — Health officials are crossing their fingers and going ahead with plans to provide the swine flu vaccine at nine mass vaccination clinics in Snohomish County on Oct. 31, even though the national supply of available vaccine is millions of doses fewer than expected.

Final word on whether the local clinics will go on as planned depends on how much vaccine is delivered to the county in next 10 days.

“We are sticking with our plan for now,” said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, health officer for the Snohomish Health District.

Medical groups throughout the county are wondering when shipments of the vaccine will arrive, said April Zepeda, a spokeswoman for The Everett Clinic.

“It’s the question of the hour,” she said. “Everybody is talking to each other asking, ‘Have you gotten anything?’ ”

Initially, the vaccines will be reserved for those at highest risk for complications from swine flu. They include: pregnant women, people who have contact with infants under 6 months, children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years old, those between the ages of 25 to 64 years old with chronic health conditions, teachers and child-care workers.

On Friday, officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this month’s supply of vaccine may be 10 million to 12 million doses short of the 40 million expected to be produced.

Although the production problems may cause rescheduling of planned swine-flu inoculation events, by the end of October or the beginning of November the shot should be widely available, Dr. Anne Schuchat, a director at the federal health agency, said Friday.

The announcement of a smaller-than-expected supply of vaccine came on the same day that federal health officials declared that influenza — both swine and seasonal — has reached unprecedented levels for this time of year, causing a mounting number of deaths in both children and adults.

Forty-three children have died from influenza since Aug. 30 — about the same as typically seen during an entire flu season, Schuchat said.

The number of deaths were greatest among children between the ages of 12 and 17, with 19 reported deaths.

The age group with the second highest number of deaths — 16 — were in children between 5 and 11 years old.

Since the beginning of this year, 86 children aged 17 or younger have died from swine flu, she said.

Overall, deaths among children and adults from influenza and pneumonia is now at epidemic levels, Schuchat said.

In Snohomish County, 18 schools were reporting absenteeism rates of 10 percent or more last week, double the number from one week earlier.

Usually, schools don’t begin to report high rates of absenteeism until November.

Since Sept. 5, nine people have been hospitalized in Snohomish County, due to flu or its complications.

Sharon Salyer: 425-3393486,

Watch for these flu symptoms

Seek emergency care for children with flu-like symptoms when:

  • They have fast breathing or trouble breathing

    Their skin color is bluish

    They’re not drinking enough fluids

    They’re not waking up or interacting

    They’re so irritable that they do not want to be held

    Flu-like symptoms improve, but then return with fever and worse cough

    Fever is accompanied by a rash

    For more information about H1N1 or swine flu, go to Seattle Children’s Web site at

    Source: Seattle Children’s Hospital

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