Fewer people in the Payson area continue to be hospitalized for the H1N1 virus than in southern Gila County, county Director of Emergency Management Matthew Bolinger said Thursday. A Saturday vaccination clinic at Julia Randall Elementary School will help targeted populations develop immunity.
Native Americans seem especially susceptible to the virus for unknown reasons, Bolinger said, which has caused southern Gila County’s inflated case numbers.
Countywide, 44 confirmed cases and three deaths of the swine flu have occurred. In the Payson area, two confirmed cases have been recorded, and no deaths.
Statewide, roughly 6,300 cases have been recorded since April. Most cases, 44 percent, have occurred in children aged 5 to 18, according to the state Department of Health Services.
“That’s the tip of the iceberg, I assure you,” Bolinger said. Only those hospitalized receive the test to confirm the flu strain. Bolinger speculated the actual number of cases has topped 1,000 inside the county.
A clinic at Julia Randall Elementary School on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. will offer free vaccinations to target populations, including pregnant women, medical personnel, people aged 6 months to 24 years, and caregivers for children less than than 6 months old.
As those populations develop antibodies to the virus, its spread should slow throughout the general population despite the national shortage in vaccines, Bolinger said.
“Because of the shortage, we have to prioritize those target populations,” Bolinger said. People who don’t fall into one of those categories cannot immediately receive the vaccine.”
However, Bolinger said the restrictions should soon ease as more vaccines become available.
People should still stay home when ill, avoid touching their noses or eyes, cover their coughs with the inside elbow or a tissue. See a health care professional for severe symptoms, otherwise manage at home, said Bolinger.
H1N1 symptoms include fever, sore throat, headache, body ache and extreme fatigue.