Leaders warn about swine flu

RALEIGH The swine flu is a major concern for health officials on both the federal and state level and concern is growing as thousands of students begin a new school year.

Officials say schools are a hot spot for the spread of flu, because of all the kids who are in close proximity. So schools are taking precautions.

Kids are getting drilled about washing their hands and coughing into their elbows to prevent the spread of swine flu.

A vaccine is coming, but not as much as initially hoped.

The federal government hoped to have over 100 million doses of swine flu vaccine available by October. However, the estimate is now scaled back to 40 million vaccines as the new flu strain surfaced just four months ago.

"The government and the pharmaceutical world is responding at a timely fashion as timely as is possible in today's world of vaccine science," State Public Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel said.

Vaccines will go to pregnant mothers first, then parents and family members of children under six months of age, then to critical health care workers and then children at high risk of complications -like kids with heart or lung disease.

"If we only have 40 million doses, in terms of public health, we have to distribute to those we think are going to be most at risk," Engel said. "And pregnant women would certainly top that list."

So when will school age kids be able to get vaccines?

"Probably early November," Engel said. "I'm saying that because of the first shipment in mid-October. And we don't know how much we're going to get yet."

The swine flu vaccine is supposed to be distributed nationally based on population.

So North Carolina should get about 3 percent of the initial 40 million doses.

Health officials say the hope is that swine flu season will not peak before vaccines are widely available.

North Carolina's flu season typically spikes in February and March.

Last year, swine flu emerged in North Carolina in March and April.

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