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9/1: Preventing Swine Flu…An Interview with the CDC

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9/1: Preventing Swine Flu…An Interview with the CDC

Should Americans be concerned about H1N1 influenza, and what precautions should they take to be protected from the swine flu?  The Marist Poll’s John Sparks talks with Joe Quimby of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.  Read the full interview below.

©istockphoto.com/DNY59

©istockphoto.com/DNY59

John Sparks
Joe, The Marist Poll conducted a national survey of the American public, and we found that 64% of the American public told us that they were not very concerned or not concerned at all about H1N1  Should folks be concerned?

Joe Quimby
Short answer to that is yes, the American public should be concerned about 2009 A H1N1 influenza because flu is very unpredictable.  We’ve had over 8,800 hospitalizations to date since April, and 556 people have died in the United States.  Although we don’t know the exact number of people who have been ill, as of late May, we knew that well over a million people had either been sick or were sick and certainly that number’s increased.  So, people do need to be concerned with this and both seasonal flu.

Listen to the Interview, Part 1:

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John Sparks
Well what precautions should people take about H1N1?

Joe Quimby
Well, it’s the same precaution for this flu as for seasonal flu.  They need to … if they’re becoming ill, they need to stay home and stay — self-isolate themselves.  If they have an underlying health condition, they need to seek attention from their medical provider, particularly people like pregnant women, who, unfortunately, of those who have died, we’re seeing about an unproportional number of deaths of pregnant women, 6% on average, whereas only 1% of the population is pregnant at any one time.  People who are asthmatic, other people with underlying health conditions certainly should not wait at all, should contact their health providers. But a generally healthy person who becomes ill should not flood to emergency rooms or whatever and be overly worried.  If you’re in generally good health, you’re going to probably pull through this in a couple of days, probably don’t even need to see a doctor, but that’ll be an individual call.  But we want people to be prudent about seeking medical care, particularly if they do have an underlying health condition.

John Sparks
You know you mentioned seasonal flu, and we are approaching the seasonal flu season, and of course the word always goes out that people should get inoculated.  Should people get H1N1 shots?

Joe Quimby
Well, first of all, a seasonal flu vaccine is in doctor’s offices now as we speak. I know here in Georgia it’s out, and it’s going to be distributed in the coming days across the country if it’s not already in your doctor’s office.  So, people should first get a seasonal influenza shot.  80% of the Americans fall into the groups of people who are recommended for seasonal.  And ,if you are recommended for a 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccine, certainly please get in line. There’s 159 people who are recommended, and people like I talked to before of, with underlying health risk and particularly pregnant women… and healthcare workers and children, school aged children, need to be vaccinated as soon as possible.

John Sparks
You mentioned getting in line, is there enough vaccine for H1N1 for everyone in America that needs it?

Listen to Part 2:

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Joe Quimby
We believe that there’ll be enough vaccine starting in about middle of October.  About 45 million doses will be initially available for those who want to have a vaccine.  Like seasonal influenza, this is a voluntary vaccine program.  So, we believe that with the initial 45 million and then follow-on distributions in the days and weeks that follow and months that follow, that everybody who wants a vaccine should be able to get one.

John Sparks
I know that CDC works in cooperation with city, county, and state health departments on something like this.  I’m just curious what some of these other agencies are doing in preparation for the fear of a pandemic?

Joe Quimby
Well it’s not the fear of a pandemic, we already have a pandemic.  It’s getting ready at all levels has been a top priority at all levels of government.  As you know, the president called for a flu summit, if you would, in the early days of July, and three cabinet secretaries got together along with hundreds of people at state and local and federal levels to begin their plans, if they already hadn’t.  And, I think we’re seeing now with the beginning of schools, some people becoming ill in school settings and colleges and universities, we’re seeing the execution of well played — well laid and planned scenarios to take care of sick people and to keep healthy people healthy.

John Sparks
The last time I remember the country getting this excited about Swine Flu, Gerald Ford was president. I recall lining up at a shopping center and getting a free shot for the Swine Flu.  Are we going to see something of that level again?

Joe Quimby
What we will see will be a combination of things.  We’ve been effectively distributing flu vaccines through primary care providers, different scenarios for decades, and so we’re going to see a combination of vaccine distributed initially to all the states on a prorated basis so that if 4% of the population lives in a particular state, that’s how much of the initial vaccine they’ll get.  And, various states and cities, depending on the population, will adapt and employ different scenarios.  So, the first and foremost thing that people can do to find out about vaccines in their area is to contact their primary care provider; and certainly when H1N1 vaccine becomes available, people are going to know about any public offerings in a community setting, in addition to in their physician setting.

John Sparks
Joe, I know it’s hard to look into a crystal ball and into the future and see what we might expect, but do you have any prediction on what we may experience this flu season in regards to H1N1?

Listen to Part 3:

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Joe Quimby
Actually if I had a crystal ball, it’d be real easy to predict what the flu season would look like, but we don’t have a crystal ball.  What we can say is that flu is very unpredictable.  We just don’t know what the extent of illness will be when you combine a new influenza strain as the 2009 H1N1 influenza combined with an act of seasonal influenza season. Our seasonal flu season is October to May.  We’ve seen the flu activity throughout these past couple months in the summer at unprecedented levels, and not since the pandemic of 1968 have we seen such an active flu activity summer — flu activity in the summer months.

John Sparks
How well would you characterize our preparations?  Are we going to be prepared?

Joe Quimby
Well, I think it’s a little too early for us to give ourselves a report card. I think the report card and any kind of grading of such will come afterwards. But, I believe that – – I know in my heart of hearts that there are 14,000 people here at the CDC, and there are thousands more at the federal level and state level and at schools and cities across the country, in health departments that are ready, have been working really hard and you’re going to see a true combined effort. But, you asked me first what can people do, there is a shared responsibility. It’s not just what the government can do for you, it’s what people can do for themselves to protect themselves against becoming exposed.  Simple things:  Keep your hands washed.  Wash your hands with soap and water often. Use alcohol-based hand gels. If they’re coughing, cough into their elbow and avoid the people who are ill, and if you are ill, stay at home, self-isolate and don’t return back to society, be it school or work environment, until you’re free from fever 24 hours without taking anything to suppress that fever.  So, there’s some — a lot of personal responsibility that each individual in America can be accounted for.

John Sparks
Joe, I appreciate your time. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Joe Quimby
No, just that it’s going to be a very unpredictable flu season and that for each American out there to do their part to protect themselves, their children, their parents, and the people that they live, work, and play with and go to school with.  And, if we all work together here, I think we’ll all get through this.  But, it is a combined effort at all levels of government and certainly with the personal efforts of the people.  We don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think you’re going to see a good effort at all levels.

** The views and opinions expressed in this and other interviews found on this site are expressly those of the speakers or authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Marist Poll.

Related Stories:

9/1: Off Guard…Concern About Swine Flu Low Among Americans

9/1: Swine Flu from “Ground Zero”


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