By Michael Broihier
The H1N1 influenza virus has fallen out of the news since it first entered the US earlier this spring, but local, state and federal governments and agencies continue to work behind the scenes preparing for the possibility that the flu will roar back this fall, more widespread and more virulent. While many rightfully question the media feeding frenzy that accompanied the initial outbreak, it is dangerous to begin thinking the threat has past.
In 1918 the spring pandemic infection rates were high, but death rates were similar to the seasonal flu. When the second wave of infection hit in the fall death rates soared, and that is what all of the health agencies from your local hospital to the World Health Organization have been preparing for. Here in Lincoln County there are two efforts underway to avoid the flu pandemic or mitigate its results.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) completed final formulation for a vaccine early in June and are working closely with US pharmaceutical manufacturers to ensure an ample supply of the vaccine in the fall. The Lincoln County Health Department has been planning to establish Points of Distribution Sites (PODS) to efficiently administer the flu vaccine when it becomes available. By using PODS, the department hopes to make access to vaccines easier and safer for both the recipient and the care giver. The PODS will allow the vaccinations to be distributed without bringing thousands of people into crowded doctors' offices and hospital waiting rooms, possibly exposing them to the virus they wish to avoid.