This Week's Developments:
We continue our busy summer of planning for the fall flu season. This week there was a great deal of emphasis on vaccination planning for seasonal influenza and also for novel H1N1 flu. This year, because of expedited production, Massachusetts may see its supply of seasonal influenza vaccine earlier than ever. It is likely that health care providers across the state could start vaccinating their patients for seasonal flu as early as the end of August. This is important because while a vaccine for seasonal influenza won't protect you from the new H1N1 flu, it WILL protect you from the seasonal flu — which will likely be circulating at the same time that H1N1 flu is circulating.
The CDC is continuing to develop and test a vaccine for H1N1 flu and has indicated that an H1N1 vaccine may be available in large quantities starting in October. Even if the H1N1 vaccine is ready by then, it will likely not be delivered all at once. All states will likely receive an initial allocation and then regular shipments after that.
Given that we are already in August, our planning has also focused on back-to-school issues relating to the upcoming flu season. We are working closely on a number of planning issues with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as well as School Health Nurses and our local public health partners. The goal of course is to do our best to keep students and staff healthy and to manage likely flu outbreaks with as little disruption as possible for schools and parents. Soon, the CDC is expected to issue revised guidance on how long students and other people should be kept away from school and work after getting the flu.
Simple Precautions to Help Stop the Spread of Flu Include:
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your cough with a tissue or cough into your inner elbow and not into your hands.
- If you are sick stay home from work and if your child is sick keep them home for 7 days, or 24 hours after your symptoms go away—whichever is longer.
- Stay informed about the latest developments on the H1N1 flu, by visiting www.mass.gov/dph.