• 79°

10 H1N1 flu cases confirmed

There have been 10 confirmed cases of H1N1 flu here, Covington County Health Department administrator Ziba Anderson said this week.

Most of the cases were in children, he said.

And while there isn’t yet a vaccine to prevent the H1N1 flu, there is a shot in production. When it becomes available, he said, he expects the local health department will be heavily involved in administering it.

“Normally, with seasonal flu, we are focused on vaccinating senior adults,” Anderson said. “At the state level (in Alabama), there is talk of vaccinating every child in the school system.”

As of last Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 477 “confirmed and probable cases” of H1N1 in Alabama. Nationwide, there have been 263 deaths from H1N1 since it was first identified in the United States in the spring.

The CDC also reports on its Web site that it has isolated the H1N1 virus and made a candidate virus strain that can be used to create a vaccine.

Anderson said that early reports about the vaccine indicate it will be a two-dose vaccine, with doses administered a month apart.

He said if a vaccine becomes available in the fall, it is likely that the health department will concentrate on administering H1N1 vaccines in October and November, and administer traditional “flu shots” beginning in December.

To date, he said, the outbreak of H1N1 has not been as serious as seasonal flu is in the United States.

The CDC lists the following tips for avoiding both H1N1 and seasonal flu.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for seven days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.

Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures.