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KFL&A area clinics set to provide pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine

2009-10-22
Kingston–With the first shipment of pandemic H1N1 Influenza vaccine arrived in Kingston and Napanee shortly after 12 noon today, KFL&A Public Health is activating its plan to begin immunizing KFL&A residents against the new strain of influenza. The first supplies are being sent to the local health sector to immunize the high risk population and the people who care for them, according to provincial guidelines. Beginning on Tuesday, October 27, 2009 KFL&A Public Health will be set up shop at Kingston’s Frontenac Mall to launch its FREE Pandemic H1N1 Influenza Community Immunization Clinic. One time clinics will also be setup in Napanee’s Strathcona Paper Centre, Cloyne’s North Addington Education Centre, and Sharbot Lake’s High School. Like other public health agencies in Ontario, the vaccine will be available to all KFL&A residents who want it, starting with people who are at the highest risk for complications if they get pandemic H1N1 influenza.

“We have the vaccine and we will be giving it to all KFL&A area residents who need it or want it,” said Dr. Ian Gemmill, medical officer of health for KFL&A Public Health. “We are starting with those people who need it most, who face severe complications from pandemic H1N1 influenza, and will benefit most from having the vaccine. We are asking other to be patient until we protect the most vulnerable.”

Those who are urged to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available and will be the focus of first Pandemic H1N1 Community Immunization Clinics include: People under 65 with chronic conditions Healthy children 6 months to under 5 years of age; Health care workers, and Household contacts and care providers of persons at high risk who cannot be immunized or may not respond to vaccines.

“Once this group is protected we will want to see every other KFL&A resident who wants the vaccine at our clinics for their pandemic H1N1 influenza vaccine,” said Dr. Gemmill.

The arrival of the vaccine and rollout of the community immunization clinics comes at a time where KFL&A area hospital emergency departments are seeing a surge in visits. KFL&A Public Health’s Emergency Syndromic Surveillance Program—the system that collects, monitors, and analyzes data from local emergency department visits to capture illness trends in the area—is showing visits for influenza-like illness, respiratory complaints, and fever at the levels usually only seen in February and March, the typical influenza season. The past week has produced an astonishingly sharp upward trend across the region in emergency department visits. In the past 24 hours from Wednesday, October 21 to Thursday, October 22, 2009, KFL&A area emergency departments have had 420 visits to its three hospitals—a 50 percent increase compared this time last year—33 percent of which were for a respiratory or fever complaint—a 400 percent increase compared to this time last year. Of the visits in this 24 hour period this year, the age distribution is approximately 45 percent are 0-17 year-olds and 50 percent are 18-64 year-olds.

“There is no doubt that pandemic H1N1influenza is widespread in our community,” said Dr. Gemmill. “It shouldn’t be cause for panic however, but rather an important reminder to do all the things we can to prevent from getting sick, and if we get sick to prevent from spreading it to other people.”

Earlier this fall, KFL&A Public Health relaunched the Stop The Spread promotional campaign on ways the community can reduce their chance of spreading infectious diseases. Running in local media, the campaign targets activities and strategies residents can adopt to reduce their risk of spreading infectious disease:

  • Cover your cough
  • Cover your sneeze
  • Clean your hands
  • Stay home if you’re sick
  • Don’t touch (your ears, nose, or mouth)
  • Get your shots (routine and influenza vaccines)

KFL&A Public Health’s website — www.kflapublichealth.ca — is providing updated information, as it becomes available, on respiratory disease generally and Pandemic H1N1 influenza specifically, including clinic dates, prevention strategies, downloadable resources, and links to provincial, federal, and global agencies. The website also provides access to Infection Watch Live, the web-based tool that allows local residents to see the influenza-like illness and gastrointestinal activity in our area, by their neighbourhood, in the preceding 24 hours. The system collects data on respiratory and gastrointestinal complaints reported in hospital emergency departments and allows any resident with access to the internet to monitor that data for themselves, much like weather reports. “We check the weather before we make plans for our day; now we can check the health of the community at the same time to make better decisions for our families,” said Dr. Gemmill.

Residents with questions on Pandemic H1N1 and seasonal influenza can speak to a live public health nurse by calling KFL&A Public Health’s Influenza Info Line at 613-549-5923 or toll-free at 1-800-267-7875, ext. 1500 during regular business hours, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and with extended hours on Saturday and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

KFL&A Public Health’s Pandemic H1N1 Community Immunization Clinics will run every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and every-other Saturday at the Frontenac Mall in Kingston through December 18, 2009; the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee on Monday, November 2, 2009 and Monday, November 23, 2009; the North Addington Education Centre in Cloyne on Monday, November 16, 2009; and Sharbot Lake High School in Sharbot Lake on Wednesday, November 25, 2009.

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