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Pregnant women urged to get H1N1 shots

Fargo-Moorhead area health professionals offered two messages Friday for people worried about seasonal and swine flu: get vaccinated, and don't head to the emergency room if you have minor symptoms.

Fargo-Moorhead area health professionals offered two messages Friday for people worried about seasonal and swine flu: get vaccinated, and don't head to the emergency room if you have minor symptoms.

Dr. Ron Miller, a pediatrician at Fargo's Merit-Care Hospital, said Friday that swine or H1N1 flu is epidemic locally.

The North Dakota Health Department estimates 92 percent of the influenza in the state is H1N1.

Nationwide, H1N1 is causing unprecedented illness for so early in the fall - including a worri-some number of child deaths - and the government warned that vaccine supplies will be even more scarce than expected through this month.

Manufacturer delays mean 28 million to 30 million doses, at most, will be divided around the country by the end of October, not the 40 million-plus states had expected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Overall, H1N1 flu is caus-ing widespread disease in 41 states.

This new strain is differ-ent from regular winter flu because it strikes the young far more than the old. Eighty-six children have died of swine flu in the U.S. since last spring - 43 of those deaths reported in September and early October alone, said CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat.

In some winters, the CDC has counted 40 or 50 child deaths for the entire flu season, she said,

MeritCare's Miller said the latest generation of vaccines is safe. He urged everyone to get the H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine as it becomes available.

Miller said after medical personnel are vaccinated, doses will go to vulnerable groups, particularly pregnant women, children and young adults ages 6 months to 24 years, and people with serious health conditions.

Miller emphasized the need to vaccinate pregnant women against flu.

He said women are vulnerable to serious complications and have higher death rates due to flu, because pregnancy naturally compromises their immune systems.

Flu vaccines also inocu-late both the mother and baby, he said, calling it a "two-fer" for protection.

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That protection will also make complications that could lead to premature birth less likely, he said.

Nationally, half of the early fall child deaths are among teens. In contrast to regular flu, swine flu sometimes can cause a very severe viral pneumonia in otherwise healthy young adults, the World Health Organization warns.

States have reported more than 2,000 deaths from pneumonia or flu-like illnesses to the CDC since Aug. 30. Schuchat said other tracking systems show those deaths have reached the level used to declare an influenza epidemic months earlier than usual. Regular flu kills 36,000 Americans a year.

Tony Hamilton, an emergency room physician at Fargo's Innovis Hospital, said most people are fine treating their flu symptoms at home with over-the-counter medicines, and keeping a distance from those not yet infected.

Hamilton urged people to stay home when they're sick, and to call telephone hospital or government help lines to determine if they should see a doctor.

Signs of serious flu that needs medical care include:

  • Uncontrollable fever. A fever of 103 or 104 degrees can't be brought down with over-the-counter drugs.
  • Dehydration. Not drinking enough fluids
  • Severe or persistent vomiting.
  • Lethargy. Not waking up or not interacting.
  • Fast breathing or trou-ble breathing
  • Bluish or gray skin color
  • Flu-like symptoms im-prove but return with fever and worse cough
  • A child may be so irri-table he or she does not want to be held.

Miller said a parent shouldn't discount their intuition. If a child is un-usually ill, then see a doc-tor.
Also, if a child has a chronic medical condition such as asthma, diabetes, or weakened immune system, and develops flu-like symptoms, parents should call a doctor within 48 hours of symptoms starting, Miller said.

North Dakota's Health Department said it expects about 12,300 doses of swine flu vaccine late next week.

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Health officials say the shipment will include doses of both FluMist nasal spray and the injectable vaccine for swine flu.

Nationally, 82 million doses of seasonal vaccine have been shipped, and 114 million eventually will arrive, enough for typical demand, Schuchat said.

Online

  • City of Fargo Web site:

    www.flu.gov

    www.fighttheflu.net

    www.ndhealth.gov/EPR/HealthHotline

    For more information

  • North Dakota Department of Health hotline: (866) 207-2880.
  • Minnesota Department of Health hotline: (800) 657-3903 Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

  • Related Topics: HEALTHMOORHEAD
    Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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