By Dave Donaldson
It’s not too late — or too early — to get protection from the H1N1 Swine Flu.
The disease is still present in the U-S, although Alaska has not seen a laboratory-confirmed case since early April. Dr. Joe McLaughlin, the chief of the state’s Epidemiology Section, says you could still get it this summer, and it will likely be predominant running through the normal flu season beginning this fall.
We are still recommending that anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated against H1N1 yet this year to go ahead and get vaccinated. One of the things that was very unusual last year was that this virus emerged in the Spring and we continued to have cases that occurred during the summer. So we just don’t know when the H1N1 strain will re-emerge and we’ll start to see a resurgence of cases.
The swine flu last year caused thirteen deaths in Alaska, which Dr. McLaughlin calls low based on national estimates. He says the state could see as many as fifty deaths a year based on data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, those who get protection against the regular flu this year will also get Swine Flu protection.
The next season influenza vaccine is likely to become available this September in Alaska. And it will cover the 2009 H1N1 virus strain in addition to two other strains of influenza viruses that commonly cause seasonal influenza.
The Seasonal Flu vaccine will be distributed differently this Fall. McLaughlin says that instead of the usual list of priorities of people who will get first access, the shots will be available – and recommended — for anyone over the age of six months who hasn’t been advised not to take it for other medical reasons.