As H1N1 cases rise in Minnesota, Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, expects a surge in cases in the next six to eight weeks.
With that, he fears that there will not be enough of the vaccine in time for Minnesotans.
“I’m afraid too little vaccine is going to get here before the peak hits,” Osterholm told about 600 people at a flu summit organized by the Minnesota Department of health.
As of Monday there had been three deaths and 265 cases of H1N1 recorded in Minnesota that were severe enough to require hospitalization. The state is no longer keeping record of cases that are not severe enough to require hospital time.
State Epidemiologist Ruth Lynfield said Minnesota health officials have been expecting vaccines to be available here in late October. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday that some may be available as early as the first week of October for health care workers and other high-priority groups, but that an ample supply won’t be ready before mid-October.
Lynfield and other speakers stressed the need for people to be conscious about not spreading illness. Lynfield said that means sick people shouldn’t try to be “Minnesota brave” and go to work or school.
Speakers at the conference also tried to dispel the idea that H1N1 is relatively mild. Lynfield said the severity is similar to regular seasonal flu, but victims tend to be younger.
Other factors that can put people at greater risk for getting the flu include asthma and other respiratory conditions, obesity, pregnancy, diabetes and cardiovascular and neurological problems, Lynfield said. Obesity, in particular, is turning out to be a bigger risk factor than first expected, she said.
Officials continue to urge diligent hand washing, covering one’s mouth when coughing and staying away from sick people.
At St. Thomas, a health services official said Friday that the school has 26 presumed cases of the H1N1 virus.
Twenty-one of the cases were self-reported on the university’s pandemic-planning Web site, while the other five were seen at the health services clinic, said Madonna McDermott, director of the Student Health Services and Wellness Center.
McDermott also said that the majority of cases were students who live off-campus.
For more information about the university’s H1N1 policy and procedure, visit the university’s pandemic planning Web site.
Stephani Bloomquist can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org