November 05 2009Supplies of vaccine for the H1N1 (swine) and seasonal flu have been very limited or not available in facilities managed by the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC). SEARHC is using priorities established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for offering vaccinations to patients during a time of limited vaccine availability. If the supply situation improves and the vaccines become widely available, other SEARHC patients will be notified through the local media and tribal groups that they can be immunized. SEARHC is in regular contact with state and federal health officials to stay updated on the current situation, including vaccine supplies. The CDC lists five priority groups for the H1N1 (swine) flu vaccine during a time of limited vaccine availability: • Pregnant women; • People who live with or provide care for children younger than 6 months old (eg, parents, siblings or daycare workers); • Health care and emergency service workers who have direct contact with patients or infectious material; • Children ages 6 months through 4 years old; and • Children and adolescents ages 5-18 who have medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications. The CDC lists eight priority groups for the seasonal flu vaccine based on their risk for complications from influenza or because they are in close contact with someone at higher risk of influenza complications: • Children ages 6 months old through their fifth birthday; • Pregnant women; • People age 50 and older; • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease); • People who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities; • Household contacts of people at high risk for complications from influenza; • Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children ages 6 months or younger; and • Health care workers. Southeast Alaska residents can help prevent the spread of flu by washing their hands frequently with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (especially after coughing or sneezing). Other ways to prevent the spread of flu include coughing into sleeves or a tissue instead of coughing into hands, staying home from work or school when sick with flu-like symptoms (don’t go back to work or school until at least one full day has passed without a fever, with no fever-reducing medication), and using sanitary wipes to wipe down high-traffic surfaces such as computer keyboards, stair railings, doorknobs, telephones and light switches. Updated information on the flu can be found online at www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov (state site), or at www.flu.gov or www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/ (national sites). SEARHC also has information posted about H1N1 flu at www.searhc.org/h1n1/.