The Amherst Public Health Department is closely monitoring developments in relation to novel H1N1 influenza. We receive daily updates from the MA Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the influenza situation in Massachusetts and nationwide.
Each year, seasonal influenza causes 250,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths nationally. Those most at risk from seasonal flu are people over 65 and those with chronic illness. H1N1 is a novel strain of influenza and is not the seasonal flu. Groups at higher risk from H1N1 influenza are different than those most likely to get seasonal flu. Scientists believe individuals up to the age of 24 are those most likely to get sick from H1N1.
Currently, vaccinations against H1N1 influenza have entered clinical trials, and it is fairly likely a vaccine will be approved quite soon. Current projections state that a mass vaccination campaign will be initiated by the federal government, and H1N1 vaccine and vaccination supplies will be distributed nationwide later this year.
The Amherst Public Health Department is currently planning to follow DPH and CDC guidelines for vaccination against both seasonal influenza and novel H1N1 influenza. We are working closely with the Amherst Public Schools to ensure that our children are well protected. As vaccine supplies are received from DPH, the Amherst Public Health Department will plan and publicize seasonal influenza vaccination clinics (most likely in late September or early October) and H1N1 vaccination clinics (most likely in late October, November, or December). We are in active communication with DPH, CDC, Amherst officials, and the Five Colleges to ensure that we can best protect the public.
The media and the public are encouraged to call the Health Department at 413-259-3077 for more information, or visit our blog, http://amhersthealth.blogspot.com. The MA DPH H1N1 website can be found here: http://www.mass.gov/dph/swineflu. The CDC H1N1 website can be found here: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/.
At this time, the groups recommended to receive the novel H1N1 influenza vaccine include:
• Pregnant women
• Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than 6 months of age
• Healthcare and emergency medical services personnel
• All people from 6 months through 24 years of age
o Children from 6 months through 18 years of age
o Young adults 19 through 24 years of age
• Persons aged 25 through 64 years who have health conditions associated with higher risk of medical complications from influenza.