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Can We Avoid the Swine Flu?

Navajo-Hopi Observer, Commentary, Posted: Oct 08, 2009

Everyone is talking about the H1N1 (swine) flu virus. Health officials tell us that a vaccination will be available locally within a few weeks. People are worried about possible side effects associated with the vaccine. Many are wondering if they should be vaccinated as this pandemic arrives. Some are waiting to see how others react after receiving the vaccine. Employers are bracing themselves for when swine flu visits their workplace. Who will cover for those that fall ill or those who must take care of someone? Can a business remain open with a bare bones staff? We just don't know.

According to the Coconino County Health Department, 58 cases of H1N1 have been confirmed. One death - an adolescent from Coconino County who died in late June - has been associated with the H1N1 virus. Five flu-related deaths - not specific to H1N1 - were also recorded at Flagstaff Medical Center since June.

There have been 1,480 confirmed cases statewide and 212 deaths have been linked with the H1N1 virus in Arizona. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there have been at least one million cases of pandemic H1N1 in the United States and at least 593 deaths.

Influenza is unpredictable, and because H1N1 is a new virus, many people may have little or no immunity against this disease. As a result, officials predict this illness may be more severe and widespread.

Most people who have become ill with H1N1 have recovered with little or no medical treatment. However, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates that there will be more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths associated with this pandemic in the coming days and weeks. It has also been reported that in addition to young children and pregnant women, obese people, diabetics and Native Americans may also be more susceptible to the H1N1 virus.

It's time to be proactive. Seasonal flu shots are available in Flagstaff at the Coconino County Health Department located at 2625 N. King St.

For appointment information, call (928) 679-7300 or toll-free (877) 679-7272. Appointments are strongly encouraged to avoid waiting times.

For more information about seasonal flu and swine flu, visit the Coconino County Health Web site at www.coconino.az.gov/health.

The Navajo Area Indian Health Service (NAIHS) has also scheduled seasonal flu vaccinations at 20 sites in and around the Navajo Nation today. This mass vaccination - available to the general public, both Native and non-Native - is sponsored by the NAIHS, Navajo Nation, Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, Winslow Indian Health Center, Inc., Sage Memorial Hospital, McKinley County, N.M., and other health care partners in the region

The CDC has created a Web page with information and updates. Visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swine or call 1-800-CDC-INFO.

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