State health official relates concerns over H1N1 recommendations
BY JIM MYERS World Washington Bureau
Monday, August 10, 2009
8/10/09 at 10:29 PM
WASHINGTON — A top Oklahoma health official expressed skepticism Monday that school students, a focus in the federal government’s campaign against the H1N1 virus, will be vaccinated early enough to be immune from the virus by a suggested Thanksgiving deadline.
Dr. Kristy Bradley, the state epidemiologist, predicted Christmas would be a more realistic timeline.
Bradley said some schools officials already are saying they will not be able to isolate students with flu symptoms as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control.
Bradley said schools also are concerned about the additional costs they will carry to conduct the necessary screenings and having enough nurses or other medically trained nurses personnel available to help handle an outbreak.
In comments to the Tulsa World, Bradley was reacting to a teleconference call to reporters by Dr. Thomas Frieden, CDC director, and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
Frieden and Duncan joined forces once again to emphasize the updated guidance on H1N1, commonly known as swine flu, which was released only Friday to state and local officials.
The H1N1 vaccine is expected to be ready to ship by mid-October.
Frieden said students probably will have to take two doses separated by at least two weeks, adding that it could be Thanksgiving before they are immune in large numbers to the virus.
“That would be wonderful,’’ Bradley said. “But I am skeptical.’’
According to her, such an optimistic outcome would depend on the ability to ship enough of the vaccine to handle a large outreach to the state’s student population.
Bradley also pointed out that others such pregnant women and those caring for infants under six months of age are among those to get the first doses of the vaccine.
On the CDC recommendation that schools separate students with flu-like symptoms from others, she said some officials are saying they cannot designate an existing room for that.
“I am hearing from some of our health department administrators that some of our schools are pushed to the brim,’’ Bradley said.
She expressed support for other key recommendations in the updated guidance, specifically the approach that no longer emphasizes school closings.
“It was a bit hari-kari last spring when the initial guidance came out,’’ Bradley said, adding that earlier even one confirmed case was enough to have a closing considered.
Now the updated guidance encourages local officials to weigh decisions to close schools against the disruptions such dismissals cause, such as lost wages for parents, students left unsupervised and missed school meals for certain students.
Read the entire story in Tuesday's Tulsa World.
Cheri Stevenson cleans the bathroom at Andrew Jackson Elementary School as they disinfect the school after it was confirmed that an employee had tested positive for the H1N1 Virus, or swine flu, in May. Some state health officials are concerned about new H1N1 recommendations for schools. MIKE SIMONS/ Tulsa World