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Rowan Health Department bracing for flu season

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
Vaccine for swine flu should be available at the Rowan County Health Department in early November.
Health officials are expecting a very busy flu season this fall starting with regular flu shots on Oct. 13-14 and Oct. 27-28 at the health department.
Just in time for flu season, the Rowan County Board of Health agreed Tuesday night to raise the price to $25 for seasonal flu vaccine. That’s up from $17 from last year.
And the cost of the pneumonia vaccine will increase from $30 to $45.
Health Director Leonard Wood said the fee has remained the same for several years, while the cost of the vaccine has rapidly increased.
For anyone wanting a pneumonia shot, the department is offering what Wood dubbed a “blue-light special.”
The department has a vaccine that expires Sept. 11. As long as it lasts, shots will be $15 each.
Much of the board’s discussion focused on swine flu, also called H1N1.
It will be administered in two doses, 21 days apart.
Nina Oliver, who is overseeing the swine flu program, said its unclear how much leeway there is in giving the second shot ó whether a few days early or later will be effective.
Wood told the board the potential numbers will “absolutely shut us down.”
Health officials said they will rely heavily on the local schools and colleges to do vaccination programs as well as private providers.
Officials said Rowan-Salisbury Schools officials are working closely with the health department to plan the immunization campaign.
Flu vaccine will be on a voluntary basis with parental permission.
Under new guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, schools will not be shut down when students or staff contract the swine flu virus.
Priority will be given to the following groups:
– Pregnant women;
– Household contacts of infants younger than 6 months old;
– People between the ages of 6 months and 24 years;
– Non-elderly adults with underlying risk conditions, such as diabetes and chronic lung disease.
While the department might use drive-through clinics for seasonal flu, swine flu clinics will have to be walk-in.
Rowan County has had four confirmed cases of swine flu. Health officials noted the state has stopped reporting numbers of cases.
The department expects to receive $45,000 in federal funds to help prepare for the swine flu vaccination. The money will be go to hire temporary staff, get additional refrigeration equipment and print forms.
Contact Jessie Burchette at 704-797-4254.

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