Davis says many more cases likely, illness deemed “widespread” across the state
Outbreak incidences mild, further vaccine delays will mean rescheduling some clinics
The state confirmed 45 cases of the flu virus strain H1N1 in Vermont for the week ending Oct. 17. At a press conference today, Dr. Wendy Davis, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, said the spread of the virus is “widespread,” affecting every region of the state.
“We are seeing influenza-like illness all around the state,” Davis says. “We have been hearing about many students being absent from school.”
A handful of schools have recently reported dozens of absences, including U-32 Union High School, Champlain Elementary School, Williston Central School and Shelburne Community School, according to reports from WCAX, The Times Argus and the Burlington Free Press.
Forty-one states including Vemont have widespread cases of swine flu, though the Northeast region is the last to get hit with the virus. The H1N1 cases reported in Vermont so far are mild, Davis says.
“Most people become ill for a few days or a week and then recover well,” Davis says.
Davis says the outbreak is not a crisis: “What would concern us is people getting seriously ill.” The department will be closely watching the severity of the cases as they are reported, she says.
Nationwide, there have been 12,578 cases of H1N1 reported since Aug. 30. Forty-three children have died; 28 of those deaths were in the Southeast.
Davis says there have been no confirmed deaths from H1N1 in the state. She couldn’t say how many Vermonters have been hospitalized with the new strain of flu.
Unlike the seasonal flu, which affects the very young and the very old, H1N1 affects healthy young people. There are 36,000 deaths per year from seasonal flu.
The Vermont Department of Health highly recommends vaccinations for pregnant mothers and young people between the ages of 6 months and 24 years. So far several thousand health workers have been vaccinated.
The state has not received enough of the vaccine to begin school-based immunization clinics. It is planning clinics in 330 public and private K-12 schools statewide.
“This is an unprecedented initiative in recent history,” Davis says. “We have pushed back the schedule of some of our school-based clinics to early November and we’re once again asking Vermonters to be patient.”
In addition to school-based clinics, community clinics, public health clinics and health care providers will have access to the H1N1 vaccine, Davis says. Providers who are not offering vaccines at this time are turning patients away because they don’t yet have access to the vaccine, according to Davis.
“We will be getting it out to providers as soon as it comes in,” Davis says.
The vaccine provides effective immunization within 8-10 days.
Listen to Dr. Wendy Davis, commissioner of the Vermont Department of Health, speak at the press conference on H1N1 held 1 p.m. today at the Vermont Department of Health in Burlington.
Oct. 21, 2009 audio from Department of Health press conference