ANNAPOLIS – Susan Somerville, a legislative aide in Annapolis, finally received her H1N1 vaccination Thursday, even as state health officials prepare for the possibility of another spike in swine flu infections.
Somerville said her contact with the elderly and young children made it important for her not to be a carrier of the flu during a possible third wave of H1N1 cases.
“(The vaccine had) not been available to me yet. I think it’s just come … and going to my private physician’s, which is in Baltimore, would have been very difficult,” said Somerville. “To have it at work where I can walk outside the door is terrific.”
Somerville’s preventative measures are worth taking, officials said.
Even though recent cases of H1N1 are down after two waves last year, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said it would not be surprising for this flu strain to surface again in a big way one or two more times.
David Paulson, the spokesman, said some states are already experiencing a third wave of H1N1.
“We … think that with the success of the vaccination program (in Maryland) that … we may have forestalled the third wave,” said Paulson. “We won’t know that for sure.”
The H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, has symptoms that could be mistaken for the seasonal flu, including a cough and a fever of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The seasonal flu vaccine does not prevent swine flu.
The first case of H1N1 appeared in Maryland on April 29, according to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Since then, there have been 43 confirmed H1N1 associated deaths and 969 hospitalizations in Maryland.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s web site emphasizes that 81 percent of patients who have died of the swine flu had preexisting health issues.
One vaccination should do the trick for those over 10 years old, but for children between six months and 10 years a booster shot is necessary, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Department of Health and Mental Hygiene will start its second major H1N1 campaign Monday across the state to remind people of the importance of vaccination.
Somerville, the legislative aide, was not alone in being cautious about the flu Thursday. Almost 400 state employees received H1N1 vaccinations in the six hours it was offered.
The organizers had been prepared with 1,000 doses.
This is the first state employee vaccination offered in Annapolis this year.
The vaccination clinic, which was held one week after National Influenza Vaccination Week, was coordinated by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the Department of Budget and Management, and Maxim Health Systems.
“We are prepared and urge everyone, whether or not they’ve been sick, (to get vaccinated) to avoid a third wave,” Paulson said. “And then, by doing so, protect the entire community.”