By Bevan K. Baker, Milwaukee Health Commissioner
Last spring – well outside what’s commonly referred to as “flu season” – residents were inundated with reports of a new virus that was rapidly spreading through communities across the country. Reports of illness poured in from all over Milwaukee, some schools were closed and everyone waited nervously for news on prevention and treatment of this new strain of H1N1 infl uenza that was commonly referred to as “swine flu.”
Just as the second wave of H1N1 infl uenza hit Milwaukee last fall, the City of Milwaukee Health Department began vaccinating residents against the virus. More than 26,000 vaccines were administered through clinics all over the city in a short 6 week time period.
While H1N1 is not in the news as much these days, we are still receiving reports of H1N1 cases in Milwaukee. The potential remains for a third wave of infection in the spring, just as we saw in the previous spring and fall. H1N1 is a very contagious virus that spreads from person to person, and primarily through coughing and sneezing. Symptoms include cough, sore throat and fever – but the virus can spread even a day before a person develops symptoms!
While frequent hand washing, coughing and sneezing into your elbow or a tissue is critical to reducing the spread of disease, vaccination against H1N1 remains the best defense of all. This vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective, and is manufactured in the same way and in the same facilities as regular seasonal flu vaccine.
Anyone who has not yet received the H1N1 vaccine is encouraged to do so at any one of our neighborhood health clinics in Milwaukee. No appointments are necessary. We especially encourage vaccination of parents, grandparents, and other caregivers of children to help reduce transmission to young children who can become very sick from this infection. One dose of vaccine is suffi cient for persons 10 years of age and older while two doses are recommended for children under the age of 10.
Adults 65 years and older, pregnant women, people with most chronic medical conditions (asthma, heart failure, chronic lung diseases, diabetes, etc.), and people with weak immune systems (from cancer, HIV, or other causes) are also at high risk for severe complications from H1N1 influenza infection and are strongly encouraged to be vaccinated as well.
Clinic locations and hours are:
Keenan Health Center
3200 N. 36th Street
Tuesdays: 1-4 p.m. and Wednesdays 8-11 a.m.
Northwest Health Center
7630 W. Mill Road
Thursdays: 3-6 p.m. and Fridays 1-4 p.m.
Southside Health Center
1639 S. 23rd Street
Mondays 3-6 p.m., Tuesdays 1-4 p.m. and Thursdays 8-11 a.m.
If these times and locations aren’t convenient, please call the Health Department at 414-286-3521 to set up a time for vaccination.
Remember, the influenza infection and transmission can be reduced through vaccination and a SAFE and EFFECTIVE vaccine is currently available. It’s not too late to get vaccinated against H1N1. And remember to stay home if you are sick to avoid spreading disease, to others at work, school or in the community see your doctor if symptoms of illness become more severe or don’t get better after a few days. For more information, visit our website at www.milwaukee.gov/flu.