DHEC prepares to track H1N1 and seasonal flu

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The state health department has the state split into eight regions to track the swine flu.

Got flu shots? Health experts say you might as well get going on vaccinations for the standard flu strain, because this year H1N1 is also going to be a problem.

To avoid coming down with either type, you'll need more than one needle in your arm.

"It's two different bugs," said pharmacist Scott Padgett. "So it's one vaccine for the flu, just the regular seasonal flu, just like it always has been for years and years. And then the H1N1 is going to be a series of two vaccines."

A lot of people have decided not to wait until seasonal flu hits. At the Walgreens on Devine, more than a hundred customers got their shots Tuesday.

"I think there's a heightened awareness because there's been so much in the media about the H1N1 and about the seasonal flu and that type of thing and so I think people are just being extra careful this year," said Padgett.

It may seem a little early to be worrying about an illness that usually peaks during winter, but health officials say the regular flu season could come early this year. While you can get vaccinated for both strains at the same time, there's no reason to wait until late next month when the first shipments of H1N1 vaccine arrive in South Carolina.

As they do, DHEC will be monitoring communities around the state for groups of swine flu cases.

"We're looking primarily for clusters of cases that have a lot of similarities that may have the same source or same sources," said DHEC spokesman Thom Berry. "And we're also going to be looking at the more serious cases that are requiring hospitalizations."

Compiling accurate numbers on flu outbreaks won't be easy. Symptoms of H1N1 flu are similar to seasonal flu.
DHEC says it will be difficult to determine whether some people are actually suffering from either type, or absent from school or work simply because they're trying to avoid getting sick.

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