Local health officials watching child immunization, whooping cough, obesity issues
The flu season is just getting a grip, but the vaccine is already getting gone.
All of the 850 adult doses of vaccine ordered for the season at Buena Vista County Public Health are gone, and of the 185 doses available for use by very young children, only half a dozen doses remained as of Wednesday.
"The demand has been amazing... Because we ran out so quickly, we didn't get in all the clinics we would like to hold. ," said public health Administrator Sally Bonneson. "I am hoping we can order more next year and be better prepared."
Last year, there was a serious shortage of the flu vaccine. This year, the two makers of the vaccines did not sell to pharmacies that had served nursing homes in the past, Bonneson said, leaving BV Public Health to meet the high demand among the senior citizens.
Only a few cases of the Influenza A strain of the illness have been reported in the region, Bonneson said. Others are likely just weathering the symptoms. Those who are not in strong health to begin with or who have symptoms linger for longer than expected should see a physician. "It can be serious," she said.
BV Public Health continues to work to get the word out about its services.
"There are misconceptions about who we are and what we do. We're here for the entire community, not just low-income people. We encourage anyone with a health-related question to contact us," she said.
The department has been occupied this past season doing an immunization audit of local schools to ensure that students have had all the immunizations the state requires.
"On the whole, all of the schools looked good. The immunization most commonly missed is chicken pox, which is the newest one to be required, or measles/mumps/rubella," Bonneson said.
For those students missing immunizations, both school and parents are notified, and they have 60 days to obtain the needed immunizations.
While Avian Flu is heavily reported as a potential epidemic, fear is not widespread in northwest Iowa. "There is no panic here, and that's a good thing. People need to be aware that it is out there, and it is true that historically an epidemic of some kind comes along every so often and we may be due," Bonneson said.
"We are a nation that has become very health proactive, and we are educating ourselves and protecting ourselves better, so I believe the chances of a pandemic are lower than they have ever been."
HIV testing is not done locally at this time, with local public health patrons referred to Sioux City. "Because there is the opportunity for false positives in the test, it is very important that people being tested go somewhere that they can receive pre-test counseling about that possibility. Otherwise they may be devastated by a false positive result, and that's why we don't do the testing here," Bonneson said.
"We are very fortunate in that AIDS has been rather rare in our area."
However, the risk remains real.
In 2003, the most recent year statistics are available, seven AIDS cases were reported in Buena Vista County, the highest in any county in northwest Iowa other than the immediate Sioux City area. Clay County followed with six. Through 2003, an estimated 1,565 HIV cases have been reported in Iowa, and 722 residents are currently living with the incurable illness.
Whooping cough is another concern, with a recent small outbreak resulting in a quarantine at Briar Cliff College in Sioux City. "We have ordered a new vaccine for whooping cough, but it hasn't arrived yet. Children are vaccinated for the disease, but in our system, after age 14 a person is not protected. If it did start going around, it could affect everyone," Bonneson said.
Representatives from public health, the local medical center, Sports Rehab, ISU Extension and others are beginning to meet to form a new group intending to "make Storm Lake healthier," she said.
Among the possibilities under discussion is a weight loss challenge in which local teams will be encouraged to form to improve exercise and eating habits.
"In general, I think people's health in Buena Vista County is pretty good," Bonneson said.
How will people stay that way in what is shaping up to be a long, sniffly winter?
"Make sure you get plenty of sleep, and eat three healthy meals every day - even though it can be hard to eat well during the holidays," Bonneson said. "Good hand-washing, don't sneeze in your hands, and using hand sanitizer gel will help you avoid catching colds and flu."