MINIMAL EXPOSURE IN WARREN COUNTY SO FAR
By Ross Donnan
(MONMOUTH, IL) The state of Illinois has reported 2931 cases of H1N1 during this year’s flu season. Warren County recorded only seven of those cases. Luckily, Warren County produced none of the 97 confirmed deaths from the virus in Illinois. “We were hit pretty hard with the seasonal Flu. At one point we had 70 walk-ins a day (at the OSF family clinic) with Flu like symptoms” said Jenna Link, Administrator of the Warren County Health Department. The department administered 4273 H1N1 vaccinations, which is approximately 25 percent of Warren County, and it was mainly the elderly who received them. Even though President Obama officially declared the virus a national emergency, only 63 percent of Americans were affected in some way by the end of 2009 according to Purdue University researchers.
News reports indicated that there was a national shortage of doses, but in fact it was a delay not a shortage of doses. According to the Los Angeles Times in October 2009, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services said not to blame the “delay” on Obama’s administration, and that as soon as the vaccines arrived they were shipped out by the thousands. When it came to the shortage of vaccinations in Monmouth “ We never actually ran out of the vaccine, we tried to get as much as we could because we were expecting more, but we still have plenty...” said Link, and although they stopped the free clinics, they are still making appointments daily.
As for the schools, they were expecting, and prepared for an astonishing 40 percent absentee rate, but luckily only got about a 15-25 percent throughout the county. “Of course, there still might be another ‘wave’ of the virus so the numbers may still increase” said Link. There have been separate “waves” of the virus, meaning at certain times there is a lull in the amount of cases confirmed, but the virus tends to resurface during the flu season several times, so Warren County may not have seen the end of it. Monmouth College’s response to the absentee rate was a “relaxed” attendance policy during the 2009 fall semester, telling the Professors to be more lenient with their attendance policies. The college also held clinics in the Huff Athletic Center, giving free vaccinations (after a lot of paperwork) for both seasonal Flu and the H1N1 strain, for students who wanted them. Some students felt the same way as Bill Heisterman, a senior at Monmouth College, “The paperwork took so long, I didn’t have time to sit and wait in line to fill out forms for half an hour just for a shot.”
This season spawned a new strain of Influenza, called H1N1, or more commonly known as “Swine Flu”. The reason it’s called Swine Flu is because it is a hybrid strain of the Flu, mixing the Avian (bird), and Swine (pigs) strains. Each year a vaccine is created to prevent the seasonal Flu because each season, the seasonal strain changes. The reason H1N1 essentially came out of nowhere, was because we had already created the vaccine for this season’s Flu, and experts say and we got caught off-guard.
During an average year, between 10 and 20 percent of the population is infected with influenza viruses. Younger children more often than adults are more susceptible viruses and illnesses. However swine flu targets more than just children, those with asthma, diabetes, obesity, and heart disease are also at a high risk. Much like most viruses and the seasonal Flu, H1N1 is most commonly transmitted through coughing, sneezing and not washing your hands.
This “wave” of the H1N1 pandemic may be mostly over, and Warren County may have lucked out with only 7 confirmed cases, but there’s no way of predicting whether or not there will be more. According to Jenna Link, “We may see another wave yet, we don’t know”, and she’s right, the Flu season can last as long as late October to the end of March.