Doris Keen, of Medina, Tenn., gets a flu shot from Michelle Miles, a state-certified immunization pharmacist, at Walgreens on Fifth Street North in Columbus. Keen was in Columbus to watch a theater group perform at Mississippi University for Women. Miles is from Columbus. Photo by: Kelly Tippett
October 10, 2009 7:57:00 PM
Local medical establishments don''t know when the H1N1 vaccine will arrive in Columbus, nor are they worried.
Despite a clear presence of swine flu, local doctors are confident conventional methods of flu prevention and treatment are sufficient to battle the virus.
Dr. Keith McCoy, a seven-year emergency room physician at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, says the hospital has seen an approximate 20 percent increase in respiratory illness in recent months. He says 10 percent of those cases are H1N1.
Likewise, Dr. Jason Skiwski with the Children''s Health Center in Columbus, reports "lots of kids coming in positive for Type A flu, which is what swine flu is."
Still, neither doctor is concerned that the federal Center for Disease Control and Mississippi Department of Health are releasing early forms of the H1N1 vaccine strictly to first responders and medical personnel.
"It''s just a matter of how much (vaccine) they can produce. The early rounds go out to those people who might come in contact or spread (H1N1), then to the general public," said McCoy.
Christina Brown, marketing director at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Golden Triangle, says Mississippi has done a good job placing timely orders for the vaccine. Yet, she says shipments for the general public may not be released by MDH for up to a month.
Skiwski says that''s not a problem for the average patient. The doctors agree a normally healthy person can fight the flu off with over-the-counter medication, rest and hydration.
In fact, Skiwski says he''s witnessed a decrease in the number of swine flu cases, and the H1N1 vaccine would have been most useful a month ago.
Now, he says only individuals with respiratory problems, such as asthma, heart problems or immune deficiencies, should concern themselves with receiving the vaccine.
McCoy has also seen a return to normal in the emergency room.
"The last two weeks we''ve kind of settled back down to normal pace. The volume of (flu related) illnesses has decreased," said McCoy.
Officials at Oktibbeha County Hospital in Starkville have chosen not to put a percentage on the number of patients exhibiting swine flu due to strong similarities shared with other strains of flu. However, Kim Roberts, employee health manager at OCH, says swine flue is likely the case for many patients as seasonal flu has not yet struck in full force.
The West Point Children''s Clinic reports treating just three to four total cases of swine flu.
The only way to know the difference between swine flu and normal seasonal flu, according to McCoy, is through medical testing. Both produce head and body aches, fever and coughing. He says more diarrhea symptoms are associated with H1N1.
Flu-fighting anti-viral agents are available to the public, but McCoy says doctors are prescribing them cautiously so as not to flood the population and give H1N1 a greater opportunity to develop resistance. Therefore, he says those agents are typically prescribed to patients who need to kick the flu quickly, such as children under 2 years old, the elderly and pregnant women.
Even without the vaccine in hand, Brown says local hospitals are equipped and prepared to handle an unexpected outbreak of influenza.
All health officials recommend proceeding with seasonal flu vaccination.
Facts about vaccination
Who will receive vaccinations first
Where you can get swine flu vaccinations
Those at risk
If You Are Sick
Source: Centers for Disease Control, Mississippi State Department of Health
ON THE WEB
3. Jailers disciplined in wake of inmate escape COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
4. Fire badly damages east Columbus home COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY