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Swine flu death only reinforces current plans

Vaccine shortage has eased, allowing broader clinics

Dec. 7, 2009

West Allis — The first H1N1 influenza death reported in the city is a tragic reminder of the seriousness of the disease, Health Commissioner Terry Brandenburg said.

In many situations, the symptoms are similar to the seasonal flu. People will feel sick for several days, get better and move on with their lives.

For children, young adults with chronic medical conditions and others, the consequences can be severe.

"A death due to the H1N1 virus really brings home that it is a serious disease," Brandenburg said. "It shouldn't be taken lightly."

The Health Department reported the death last week. Brandenburg said Monday he couldn't divulge the person's gender, age or race due to state Division of Public Health guidelines and confidentiality laws.

Following the same plan

While the death certainly raised concern, it hasn't changed the department's planning of clinics and other measures to combat the outbreak, Brandenburg said.

Health departments had been hampered by a shortage of vaccine, but in recent weeks it has started to stream in steadily, he said. The West Allis Health Department next week will open up vaccine clinics to the general public, rather than specific target groups.

Coming in waves

The clinics come as officials are gearing up for a possible "third wave" of cases.

The first wave, where officials saw a sharp increase in people reporting flu-like symptoms, hit in May and June before tampering off. The second spike came in mid-November.

In a typical year, many will come down with the seasonal flu in the second and third weeks of January after traveling to different parts of the country over the holidays. If the H1N1 continues to mirror seasonal flu patterns, mid-January could be a time of a spike in H1N1 cases and school absences, Brandenburg said.

"People would be very wise to get a vaccination soon before you move into the Christmas holiday," he said.

FYI

Upcoming H1N1 vaccination clinics:

• 4 to 7 p.m. Monday at Nathan Hale High School, 11601 W. Lincoln Ave.

• 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at Greenfield City Hall, 7325 W. Forest Home Ave.

• 4 to 7 p.m. Tuesday at Frank Lloyd Wright Intermediate School, 9501 W. Cleveland Ave.

• 2 to 5 p.m. Wednesday at West Allis Senior Center, 7001 W. National Ave.

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