FRANKFORT, Ky. (Oct. 8, 2004) Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) officials are coordinating with local health departments across the state on how best to distribute the state’s limited supply of influenza vaccine.
DPH is still completing an assessment of how much flu vaccine the 56 local health districts in Kentucky currently have, how much was ordered and what additional shipments of flu vaccine might be received.
After consulting with local health department leadership, DPH has sent a letter asking that all local health departments voluntarily hold back at least 10 percent of any vaccine they receive so it can be reallocated to health departments with little or no vaccine. Once the supply assessment is complete, DPH will begin coordinating the redirection of donated vaccine between health departments in an effort to help Kentuckians at highest risk for complications from the flu have access to vaccine.
Local health departments have also been encouraged to work with private providers and hospitals in their counties to determine all available vaccine supplies in the area and to develop local contingency plans.
“We are working closely with health departments and others to inventory the state’s vaccine supply and plan to get it to those who are most in need. The local response has been quick and extremely cooperative,” said Acting Public Health Commissioner Dr. William Hacker.
This action follows an announcement Tuesday that a major U.S. vaccine supplier will not be providing any of the approximately 50 million doses — or about half the nation’s supply — that had been expected this year. As a result Kentucky, like other states, expects to face a vaccine shortage as the 2004-05 flu season is due to begin.
“We are following the CDC’s guidelines to prioritize the limited supply of flu vaccine to target the people at the highest risk for complications from the flu,” said Dr. Hacker. “Healthy Kentuckians ages 2 through 64 are asked to keep the flu vaccine shortage in mind and to consider foregoing or delaying their flu shots this year."
The nasal-spray flu vaccine is an acceptable alternative to the flu shot for healthy persons ages 5-49.
In response to the flu vaccine shortage, the CDC is recommending that available flu vaccine be administered on a priority basis to those with the highest risk for flu complications. That group includes:
· all children ages 6 - 23 months
· adults 65 and older;
· persons age 2 - 64 with chronic medical conditions
· women who will be pregnant during flu season
· residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
· children 6 months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy
The CDC also recommends flu shots for those who could transmit the flu to high-risk individuals, including:
· health care workers involved in direct patient care; and
· out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old.
To limit the spread of flu, everyone should:
· stay home when you have flu-like symptoms to prevent spreading the virus in the workplace. The flu most often is transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. Rarely, infection is spread by touching something with virus on it and then touching your mouth or nose.
· cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and properly dispose of used tissues.
· wash your hands frequently and always after coughing or sneezing, or use a soapless, alcohol based hand cleaner.
Adults can infect others beginning one day before the onset of symptoms to seven days after symptoms appear. Children may transmit the flu longer than seven days. Symptoms begin one to four days after the virus enters the body.
The most common symptoms of the flu are sudden onset of:
· fever (usually high);
· extreme tiredness;
· dry cough;
· sore throat;
· runny or stuffy nose; and
· muscle aches.
Kentuckians should not to confuse flu with other illnesses. The flu is a respiratory illness and not a stomach or intestinal illness. Vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and other stomach distress can sometimes be related to the flu, especially in children, but these problems are rarely the main symptoms of flu. There is no such thing as the 'stomach flu.’
"The flu can make you feel just miserable, but for the majority of otherwise healthy people, it's not a serious health problem," Dr. Hacker said. "For those whose health conditions and other circumstances make them especially vulnerable, the flu can be very dangerous. That's why we ask Kentuckians for their continued cooperation and understanding of the flu vaccine shortage and that they make thoughtful decisions about whether or not to get a flu shot this year."