Posts tagged ‘swine flu’

Vaccine myth busters

*published: Oct. 27, 2009
Local doctors address patients’ reluctance about flu vaccinations

As swine flu vaccines slowly make their way to states, local doctors are addressing patients’ reluctance to get vaccinated.

One concern is that H1N1 vaccine is a live-virus vaccine.

Dr. Kevin Mocklin, medical director for Lake Charles Memorial Hospital, said the nasal flu mist contains an attenuated — or weakened — version of the virus.

“That plays a role in people’s fears, but the (Food and Drug Administration) has deemed this safe for children,” Mocklin said.

Another concern is over the preservative thimerosal, which contains trace amounts of mercury.

Dr. Carlos Choucino, an infectious disease specialist for Lake Charles Memorial and Moss Regional hospitals, said the preservative is necessary for multidose vials of the vaccine.

“There have always been concerns about the connection between mercury and autism in children,” Choucino said. “But the FDA reviewed data, and there was no conclusive evidence to make that connection.”

Choucino said the nasal mist is not designated for pregnant women because it may contain the preservative. This is also why pregnant women have priority with the flu shots, but not the nasal

Mocklin said no hospitals or health units know in advance what form of the vaccine they will receive.

The concept of swine flu parties — similar to chicken pox parties — has been addressed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, though no evidence has been found that such events have been held.

Spokesman Tom Skinner said the CDC has received a large number of calls and anecdotal evidence about such parties.

“I have not been asked that, but parents should keep in mind that not every sick child has swine flu,” Mocklin said. “So they would be exposing their child on a theory.”

A carry-over apprehension from the seasonal flu is the saying “I will get the virus from the (injectable) vaccine,” said Choucino.

“That is not possible because it is a dead virus,” he said. “The reaction may be to components in the shot.”

Choucino also said it takes 10 to 14 days after the shot for the body to develop immunity, so patients could be exposed and fall ill during that time.

Mocklin and Choucino said swine flu symptoms are mostly similar to those of the seasonal flu but that people should go to the hospital if they have a high fever for more than 24 hours.

“In children, we have seen the fever accompanied by diarrhea,” Choucino said.

He also said people with respiratory issues or liver and heart issues are more susceptible.

“The most important thing to do is try to prevent from ever getting the virus,” Choucino said. “And the best thing people can do is get the vaccine.”

Mocklin added people should get the vaccines for H1N1 and seasonal flu, because each vaccine only combats one strain.

“People should practice proper cough etiquette and use frequent hand washing, along with the vaccine,” Mocklin said. “And if you are sick, stay home.”

As of Oct. 21, Louisiana had received about 187,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine, according to the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

Additional shipments are expected every five to 10 days for the next two to three months, according to a DHH news release issued Monday.


October 27, 2009 at 9:34 am

School Board to wait on flu program

*published Aug. 17, 2009
Students won’t be vaccinated unless necessary

While hundreds of schools are setting up for what could be the most widespread school vaccination program since the days of polio, Calcasieu Parish School Board officials said they will wait and see in regards to swine flu.

“This is something we would do only if absolutely necessary,” said Calcasieu Parish School Board Superintendent Wayne Savoy.

He said any action the system takes would be dictated by recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state Department of Health and Hospitals.

A vaccination program in the parish schools “would be a massive undertaking,” said Charlene Chaisson, information officer for the school board.

Chaisson said the biggest step would be getting permission from the parents of the more than 30,000 students in the parish.

“We definitely can’t just start vaccinating every student without parents’ permission,” Chaisson said.

She said there is no specific plan in place for the parish.

Last week, the National Association of County and City Health officials hosted an online seminar for about 700 officials on school flu vaccinations.

No parish school board in Louisiana has announced plans to close schools or start parishwide vaccinations.

Last spring, about 100 schools nationwide closed because of swine flu cases. There are 346 CDC-confirmed cases of swine flu in Louisiana, which includes 22 Central High School football players.

“We know (parents) are concerned because they love their children more than anything in the world,” Chaisson said. “But we just don’t want them to panic.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


August 17, 2009 at 7:32 pm

Local schools to stay open

7 cases of swine flu confirmed in Louisiana, none locally

The swine flu has spread to Louisiana, with seven children in three parishes the state’s first confirmed cases, state health officials said Sunday.

Meanwhile, Calcasieu Parish School Board and Diocese of Lake Charles officials have decided to not close their schools in light of reports of five confirmed H1N1 flu cases in Lafayette Parish.

At least five schools in Lafayette have closed voluntarily or by state order because of suspected or confirmed flu cases.

“We understand parents’ concerns, but all of our decisions are based on information from many health officials,” said School Board spokeswoman Charlene Chaisson.

Chaisson said parish school officials have updates at least once a day, and sometimes multiple times a day, from state, federal and international health officials.

“Right now, we want to stick with canceling any field trips to Texas and encouraging basic hygiene practices in schools,” Chaisson said.

The School Board over the weekend began distributing posters — in English and Spanish — to schools to show children how to properly wash their hands.

Chaisson said parents should also check the Calcasieu Parish School Board’s Web site, which will be updated immediately if any policies change.

Diocese of Lake Charles Catholic School Superintendent Mary Ann Moses said Sunday that officials of the eight schools in that system “ are definitely following this very closely.”

“We’re handling this on a case-by-case or school-byschool basis,” Moses said, noting that as of Sunday, “no illnesses of this sort have been reported, and we’re going as business as usual.”

Moses said the schools are exercising caution with field trips until the end of the school year, taking care to consider whether students are going to be in crowded situations, even in the state. No such trips are being allowed into Texas.

She said that the system is keeping in touch with Calcasieu public school officials and is being diligent in its communication with its parents, faculty and staff.

Jindal said health officials had expected that the Centers for Disease Control would confirm that the H1N1 virus would spread to Louisiana. Ascension and Orleans parishes each had a confirmed case.

“This is not a huge surprise, but it does confirm some of our earlier suspicions,” Jindal said Sunday of the virus’ spread to Louisiana.

Jindal said the state lab has received about 800 samples and have tested about 380 so far.

All the children stricken with the virus are recovering at home and taking antiviral medicine, Jindal said.

The Lafayette cases were students at Cathedral Carmel School, a kindergarten through eighth-grade school that closed last week. Officials at another Lafayette-area private school, St. Thomas More, said it would not open today — the fifth to shut down in the parish because of flu concerns.

St. Thomas More officials decided to close at the recommendation of state health officials, who found a “direct link” to Mexico, Jindal said.

Audubon Charter School, a private New Orleans school, planned to close for three days to disinfect classrooms, furniture and equipment. Jindal said a student who had traveled to Mexico in January might have contracted the virus. The student was not in school last week and is responding well to antiviral medicine, Jindal said.

Louisiana High School Athletic Association Commissioner Kenny Henderson said the situation is “day-to-day” on the high school sports schedule across the state.

“I was in contact with the state Department of Education and the Department of Health (and Hospitals). They are keeping me updated,” he said. “I haven’t heard back from them of any changes, so things are going on as planned”

He also said, “Things could change at any time.”

The state Division I (Class 5A) tennis tournament scheduled for today and Tuesday at St. Thomas More High School will proceed.

On the Net:

Staff writers Vanessa Deggins, Johnathan Manning and Dennis Spears and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

article link:

May 4, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Swine flu concern grows

*published Apr. 28,2009

Health officials: Wash hands, cover mouth

Health officials around Southwest Louisiana are on the watch for swine flu cases.

As of Monday afternoon, Louisiana had no reported cases of the disease, which has garnered the world’s attention.

Dr. B.J. Foch, regional administrator and medical director for the state Office of Public Health, told the American Press that government health experts are focusing their attention on educating the public.

“We anticipate there may be some cases to be found in Louisiana,” he said. “But the most important thing people can do is cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they sneeze or cough and throw the tissue away.”

Also, people are being reminded to wash their hands with soap and water.

Foch said health care professionals late last week were alerted to the threat of swine flu showing up in the Bayou State. He offered a simple explanation of the disease.

“It’s a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza viruses. Outbreaks of swine flu happen regularly in pigs. People do not normally get swine flu, but human infections can and do happen,” Foch said.

“Most commonly, human cases of swine flu happen in people who are around pigs, but it’s possible for swine flu viruses to spread from person to person, also.”

A health official at Lake Charles Memorial Hospital said residents have shown concern about illnesses they suspect could be the flu.

“We have received some calls from people who have been ill and want to know what the symptoms are or if they should go to the doctor for testing. I have been encouraging them to see a doctor,” said registered nurse Belinda Fitzgerald, an infection preventionist director at the hospital.

Dr. Bryan Barootes, a professor at Lake Charles Memorial’s LSU Health Sciences Center, offered advice for people who travel to different regions in the United States and Mexico ––areas where swine flu cases have been reported.

“Your risks go up, and many people from here take cruises out of Galveston and to Mexico. The important thing is to notice the symptoms — it’s like the regular flu with fever and a sudden onset, but not just like allergies. You feel sick. Don’t panic, but be aware of the severity of it and symptoms.”

Barootes added common sense would help to prevent the spread of the disease.

“Like what your mother told you: If you sneeze, cover your mouth and wash your hands, and keep washing your hands,” he said.

Fitzgerald added that respiratory cough etiquette — “you can cough on the inside of your elbow” — should also be used.

Residents concerned about the safety of eating pork don’t have to worry.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said swine flu is not transmitted by food and that all food-borne germs are killed when pork is cooked to the recommended internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. According to national reports, there is no evidence that U.S.-raised pigs are infected with the virus or that people can become infected by touching uncooked pork.

Swine flu is spread through sneezing, coughing and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus, as well as through contact with infected pigs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


April 28, 2009 at 7:50 pm

OEP ready for flu

*published Apr. 27, 2009

No cases confirmed in La.; officials stress prevention
Calcasieu Emergency Preparedness officials said they are ready for the possibility of a viral outbreak in the area in the wake of recent reports on the spread of swine flu.

“We put procedures in place back in 2003 when the first cases of SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) made news,” said Dick Gremillion, director of the Calcasieu Parish Office of Emergency Preparedness. “There has been a lot planning since that and news of the avian bird flu.”

Gremillion said he and area officials will meet today to discuss the flu outbreaks and plans the local officials have to handle potential pandemics.

A meeting scheduled Tuesday to discuss the coming hurricane season will also include talk about preventative steps against the swine flu.

Symptoms of swine flu are fever, coughing, sore throat, headache, chills and fatigue. There have also been reports of vomiting and diarrhea.

In a Sunday news conference in Baton Rouge, Gov. Bobby Jindal also stressed prevention.

He stated in a Sunday press release that the state Office of Homeland Security has activated its Crisis Action Team, which will monitor national trends on the swine flu and any reported cases in Louisiana.

There are no confirmed cases in Louisiana.

Hospitals and physicians were notified Friday, and the Louisiana Hospital Association is tracking hospital patient volumes, assessing hospital capacities’ and working with Louisiana pharmacies to maximize the availability of antiflu drugs.

Jindal encouraged residents to see a doctor as soon as possible if they experience any of the listed flu-like symptoms.

At a Sunday news conference, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the department had declared a public health emergency.

This allows a federal stockpile of about 12 million doses of Tamiflu to be moved to places where states can quickly get their shares, with priority given to the five states with known cases.

Jindal said 669,000 antiviral doses are earmarked for Louisiana, and should be shipped within seven days.

Until then, he said Louisiana has 370,443 Tamiflu treatments and 94,360 Relenza treatments in the state stockpile.

There are also 64,000 pediatric antiviral doses stockpiled in the state.

As of Sunday, the World Health Organization had 20 lab-confirmed human cases of the H1N1 swine influenza in the U.S., according to a press release.

Eight were in in New York; seven in California; two in Texas, two in Kansas and one in Ohio.

There were no deaths and one brief hospitalization.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated in a news teleconference Sunday that the seasonal vaccine has no affect on this strain of the virus, but treatments with drugs such as Tamiflu have proved successful.


April 27, 2009 at 7:54 pm