Maine CDC Press Release

December 17, 2009

More Deaths from H1N1 Reported; Vaccine Now More Readily Available

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT
Dora Anne Mills, MD, MPH, Director,
Maine CDC, 287-3270
or John Martins, Director
Employee and Public Communications (207) 287-5012
For this week’s full surveillance report, go to – http://www.maineflu.gov

AUGUSTA - Although four more Maine people died this week of H1N1, the Maine CDC reminds people that an estimated 150 people die here every year of influenza and that H1N1 vaccine is now more readily available.

“Data indicate that H1N1 flu has been relatively mild in Maine compared with other states, and continues to decline. Hospitalizations due to H1N1 declined this past week from 50 a month ago to 11 and only one school reported an outbreak,” said Mills.

Mills said the people who died were from Androscoggin, Kennebec, Knox, and Oxford counties. Since August, 17 Mainers have died and all have had serious underlying health conditions.

“Nationally, data indicate that H1N1 is striking young people the hardest. In Maine, that has not been the case, pointing out that influenza is unpredictable. The good news is that earlier this week, we expanded vaccine availability beyond the US CDC’s priority groups to include anyone who wants the vaccine, if local supplies allow,’’ she said. “ Prescription antiviral medicines are also widely available to everyone who is at risk for complications from flu, including those 64 and older.”

Since October, Maine has received 530,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine, with the largest supply coming in the last two weeks. Maine CDC recommends that if local supplies are not sufficient for all who want vaccine, that the existing supply is focused on the US CDC’s priority groups while additional supplies are being ordered and shipped. These priority groups are: pregnant women; all people 6 months through 24 years of age; caregivers and household contacts of those under 6 months; people 25 through 64 years of age with underlying conditions; and health care workers.

“We recommend anyone ages 2 through 49 years of age who is otherwise healthy and not pregnant consider the nasal spray vaccine,” said Dr. Mills. “It is easy and safe, and in some public clinics there is an express line for it. It is also important that the injectable vaccine be reserved for those who cannot receive the nasal spray, and that includes those at highest risk for severe H1N1 disease – pregnant women, anyone with chronic conditions, and older people.”

Maine CDC notified 25 practices on Wednesday that they had received some of the recalled lots of H1N1 vaccine. The remaining vaccine from these lots was pulled from their shelves. Mills said 4,500 doses of the recalled lots had been recently shipped to Maine and that many of those had not been administered yet. Because there were no safety concerns and the vaccine was slightly weaker than the license standards called for, there are no recommendations for the children who received the vaccine except to proceed with their second dose as would normally occur.

“We recognize that many people are also seeking seasonal flu vaccine. Although the demand continues to outstrip the supply, there is more of this vaccine available in Maine as well,” said Dr. Mills. “While we are not detecting any seasonal flu yet, we expect that it will arrive sometime this winter as well. Now is an excellent time to get vaccinated, especially those in high risk categories.”

The availability of H1N1 or seasonal flu vaccine can be determined by calling 211, checking http://www.maineflu.gov or calling your health care provider.