Health officials schedule flu clinic


Responding to the high demand for flu inoculations, the Carroll County Health Department has scheduled a clinic tomorrow to offer a recently developed nasal spray vaccine to healthy individuals who meet age and physical standards.

The county Health Department, which has vaccinated about 7,000 people against the flu since October, has few injections of the vaccine left, and those are reserved for children, officials said.

The state has purchased 25,000 doses of the FluMist nasal vaccine from Gaithersburg-based MedImmune Inc., and has distributed those to health departments throughout Maryland. Carroll has 560 doses - all the county has room for in refrigerated storage.

Should Carroll need additional supplies of the spray, the state would make more available for shipment within the next few weeks, said John Hammond, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

According to the state Health Department, flu activity reached widespread levels throughout Maryland at the end of last month. Confirmed cases of the virus are not broken down by county, but Carroll has reported several, health officials here said. Influenza is not a disease that physicians are required to report and that makes exact data difficult to find, said Hammond.

"The flu is something that happens every year, and this year we are reporting widespread illness," Hammond said. "Will it be the worst year? I doubt it."

The worst outbreak in the past 10 years occurred in the 2001-2002 season, according to state records. Influenza, a highly contagious virus, affects the nose, throat and lungs. It causes thousands of deaths nationwide each year, primarily among the elderly, according to state health officials.

Media attention to this year's outbreak has caused a flurry of calls to area health departments, Carroll health officials said. At Carroll's last adult flu shot clinic Dec. 12, nurses administered the available 350 shots in about an hour and closed the clinic, turning away as many as 200 people, health officials said.

More than 100 children were inoculated at a clinic Dec. 19.

Nearly a dozen nurses in Carroll are prepared to dispense all 560 doses of FluMist during the four-hour, walk-in clinic tomorrow at the Health Department, 290 S. Center St., Westminster.

Healthy people, between the ages of 5 and 49, will be eligible for the nasal spray, which is a live, weakened form of the flu virus.

The elderly, the very young, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems and long-term health problems would be at risk from the vaccine, health officials said.

"If you are healthy and the right age, then this is a flu vaccine that is available to you," said Eleanor Derstine, a registered nurse who works in the department's communicable disease section.

"We will screen all those at the clinic to make sure we answer all their questions about FluMist and to make sure they are eligible," Derstine said.

The charge will be $20 per dose.

Derstine said she would not be surprised to see all the available doses of FluMist dispensed during the clinic.

The staff is not taking appointments and is urging those interested in the vaccine to visit the clinic from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Derstine said.

For information, call 410-876-4900.

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