Potential new wave of H1N1 keeps Placer County vaccine clinics going

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Things are relatively flu-free for now but Placer County is girding for a possible third, stronger wave of H1N1. The first two rounds took place last spring and in the late fall. Placer County Health Department records show four deaths have been attributed in the county to the H1N1 virus since the swine flu crisis started in April Dr. Mark Starr, director of community health, said Tuesday that no-appointment, free H1N1 vaccinations are now available at county sites on regular immunization days. For Auburn, that means shots will be given Fridays from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 4 p.m. to 4 p.m. If a third spike in H1N1 reports takes place, the county will look again at holding more widespread flu clinics. With vaccination programs in schools completed and clinics held in all areas of the county since the vaccine became available in October, Starr said an estimated 50 percent of residents are believed immune from current H1N1 strains. Placer County records show increases in reported H1N1 cases rising in late October and hitting their highest in numbers of hospitalizations in early December. In all, 48 Placer County residents were hospitalized with what the county is terming probable or confirmed H1N1 flu since mid-August. Starr said that the county concentrated during the early stages of its vaccination program on ensuring people in the vulnerable groups were covered, included pregnant women and schoolchildren. Of the four cases in Placer County where H1N1 sufferers died, all had underlying health issues, Starr said. The deaths occurred in July, August, September and November. Three were women – ages 50, 18 and 34. The fourth was a man, aged 62. The median age of H1N1 cases in Placer has been 37. The second wave of the flu rapidly lost momentum in mid-December and H1N1 has stayed at low levels since then – reflecting state and national counts, Starr said. “But we may see another wave and sometimes that third wave is more severe,” Starr said. “It’s still a good time to get vaccinated and we have plenty of vaccine available.” The county has about 10,000 doses of vaccine and more is also being made available through healthcare providers and pharmacies. “The difference is we don’t charge an administrative fee,” Starr said. The county’s general fund won’t be affected by the vaccination campaign. The program has been largely federally funded. Starr said his department wants to thank all the nurses, school staff and parents who helped with inoculation programs for students. The Auburn clinic is held at 11584 B Avenue. For more information, visit the H1N1 section of the Placer County Web site or call (530) 889-7141. For a recorded message about clinics available, call (530) 889-7161.