Thursday, December 11, 2003

Lines long at flu shot locations as supply dips



By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

[IMAGE]
Long lines at flu shot locations. Busy hospitals and doctors. And lots of sick kids staying home from school.

These were the scenes in Greater Cincinnati as concern continued nationwide about a rougher-than-usual flu season.

National media coverage of widespread flu outbreaks in 13 states, including some deaths among children in Colorado, have prompted a run on the remaining flu vaccine supplies in Greater Cincinnati.

Influenza has been sporadic in Ohio and Kentucky and regional in Indiana - not widespread - according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Locally, no flu-related deaths have been reported. There have been no confirmed cases involving the type A/Fujian flu that has wreaked havoc in Western states.

This year's vaccine offers only partial protection from the Fujian strain, but most local cases have been type A/Panama, which is covered by this year's vaccine.

The last supplies of flu shots around town are running out fast.

Kroger announced Wednesday that all area stores were out of injectible vaccine, but pharmacies still had the more expensive FluMist vaccine available. They join many doctor offices and several county and city health departments that also have exhausted their supplies.

Absenteeism is up at many local school districts. But as of Wednesday, only two area schools had closed. The combined junior-senior high school for Madison Local Schools in northern Butler County will be closed today and Friday; 228 of 757 students were out sick Wednesday. And St. Thomas More School in Clermont County was closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

At Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, emergency department visits were running twice normal levels. As of Wednesday, the hospital had reported 136 cases of influenza since Dec. 1, up from 70 Monday.

In Reading, about 230 people lined up Wednesday at City Hall to get flu shots provided through the Hamilton County General Health District. About 700 doses are left, said spokesman Pete Gemmer. The county's next flu shot session will be Friday at the Montgomery Safety Center, 10150 Montgomery Road. Information: 946-7882.

In Batavia, long lines were reported Tuesday at the Clermont County General Health District, but a "couple hundred" doses of flu vaccine will be available for another immunization session slated for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, said Shirley Sexton, director of nursing.

Clermont County started this fall with about 1,500 doses. If supplies last, flu shots also will be administered next Tuesday and Thursday. Information, 735-8989.

In Cincinnati, the city health department had about 2,400 doses left.

"We'll probably give out that many doses by the end of next week," said health commissioner Malcolm Adcock.

For information call 357-2700 (Price Hill) or 271-6089 (Madisonville) or 352-3092 (Over-the-Rhine) or 357-7300 (Corryville) or 357-7600 (Northside) or 352-3192 (Millvale).

For more area-wide flu shot information, call 931-SHOT.

Sue Kiesewetter contributed. E-mail tbonfield@enquirer.com




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