Three Rivers hopes to have flu vaccine by mid-October

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By Molly Haines

As residents across the county gear up for flu season, the Three Rivers District Health Department is preparing for H1N1, more commonly known as swine flu.

Although no cases of H1N1 have been reported in Owen County, many people are looking for a vaccination.

Three Rivers Public Health District Director Georiga Heise said although the Centers for Disease Control have not yet released a vaccination Three Rivers is expecting one to be made available by mid-October.

“We are currently planning a mass vaccination at the high school,” Heise said. “We’re not sure how we will receive the vaccination yet. If it is sent a little at a time, then we will reach out to the targeted groups first, which are small children, young adults and pregnant women.”

Although H1N1 cases have popped up all over the United States, it is not yet known how easily the virus spreads. The virus is thought to spread in the same way the seasonal flu spreads.

The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of the regular flu, including chills, coughing, headaches sore throat, stuffy nose, muscle aches and a feeling of weakness, Heise said.

Diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain, or exhaustion occur more commonly in children.

Heise said if these symptoms are experienced it is important to immediately see a health care provider.

“I would encourage people to see whoever they would normally see,” Heise said. “They can determine whether or not you should be tested for the virus. The sooner you see a health care provider the better.”

Although a vaccination is not yet available, Heise said there are extra precautions to take.

“Washing your hands is the best precaution to take at this point,” Heise said. “Don’t share drinks or food with others; cough or sneeze into your arm or a tissue; if it’s wet and it belongs to someone else, don’t touch it ‚Äì the simple things you would have learned in kindergarten.”

Owen County Schools Superintendent Mark Cleveland said there has been discussion of what would happen in the event of a possible H1N1 outbreak in the schools.

“We’re monitoring and cleaning things daily,” Cleveland said. “If it were to happen, we would treat it similar to an outbreak of a regular flu and advise parents not to send their kids to school if they are sick. If it does happen, we will evaluate the situation on a daily basis.”

Heise said the impact H1N1 will have on Owen County this flu season is hard to predict.

“So far no one has it,” Heise said. “I think if we take the extra precaution, we’re going to be in the best shape possible. We never know what’s going to happen in a situation like this.”

The regular flu vaccine will be available today at Three Rivers Health Department. No appointments are necessary.