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Health officials brief council on H1N1

October 13, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

Patient who had H1N1 and died had 'serious underlying medical conditions'

HAGERSTOWN -- Washington County has had 11 flu-related outbreaks in local public and private schools in connection with the H1N1 pandemic, a health official said Tuesday.

Six of those outbreaks are still going on, said Susan Parks, the director of nursing for the Washington County Health Department.

She defined an outbreak as when either of the following occurs:

o The absentee rate doubles and at least five students with flu symptoms are sent home from school

o At least 25 percent of a class is absent with flu symptoms

Parks attended Tuesday's Hagerstown City Council meeting as part of a health department presentation on the status of H1N1 flu in the area.

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H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, has been blamed for 10 deaths in Maryland. The most recent victim died at Washington County Hospital, health department spokesman Rod MacRae said Monday.

Washington County Health Officer Earl Stoner said most of the 10 victims had underlying health problems.

The county has had about eight confirmed cases of H1N1 flu, according to Stoner.

Federal, state and local health officials stopped tracking exact numbers of confirmed cases months ago because they already knew the flu is widespread.

Deaths still are being recorded.

So are H1N1-related hospitalizations. Maryland has had 217 since June 1, Stoner said.

Addressing the city council, Stoner said the health department is focusing on surveillance, mitigation, vaccinations and communication.

He said the health department ordered 8,400 doses of H1N1 vaccine, but has only received 700.

The department plans to start administering vaccines this week to health workers and emergency services workers, he said.

It also is trying to set up vaccinations for children, starting with schools that have had the least exposure to H1N1.

The department probably will address four schools at a time, Stoner said.

Separate vaccines are needed to protect against H1N1 and the seasonal flu.

Stoner said the health department also is waiting for seasonal flu doses, which have been backed up because of a shift in production to H1N1 vaccine.

The department held one seasonal flu clinic to give out vaccines and "that wiped us out," he said.

Stoner reminded the council that about 1,000 Marylanders can be expected to die of seasonal flu in any given year.

H1N1 is a relatively mild but different strain, which requires vigilance, he said. He reminded people to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they cough and stay home if they're sick.

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