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Thursday, 1 October 2009

At Least 102 dead from Swine Flu in Florida

With at least 102 confirmed swine flu related deaths in Florida, county health departments are making plans to distribute a vaccine and educate the public.

The first doses of a swine flu vaccine could start arriving at local health departments as early as next week, officials say.

They encourage people to get them.

Valerie Post, 24, who died Monday after the health department count was taken, died Monday night.

"A mom who had just delivered just died, and she seemed to be healthy other than pregnancy, so it's a serious disease and one we should really pay attention to," said Maggie Hall, spokeswoman for the Pinellas County Health Department.

Health officials say Post had no underlying health conditions but pregnant women are in the high-risk group for swine flu.

In the last two weeks, swine flu claimed the life of two other people in the Bay Area, both in good health – a 39-year old Pinellas County man and a 14-year-old from Highlands County.

Health Department officials say they are taking every step they can to prevent the spread of the disease, including outreach and education programs.

"We have a bunch of health educators that can go out to your business to help you prepare for swine flu season," Hall said.

The first batch of vaccine has been shipped from France to Pennsylvania and will now be distributed throughout the United States.

Health experts urge pregnant women, children 6 months to 4 years and healthcare workers to get the vaccine.

But pregnant women may have to wait.

"Unfortunately with the first doses coming being FluMist, it's not recommended for pregnant women," Hall said. They'll have to wait for vaccine shots.

Officials say money will not be an obstacle if people choose public vaccination sites.

The federal government purchased 259 million doses of the vaccine, and is distributing it to 90,000 sites nationwide, Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius said.

The shots will be administered free through public health departments, which will make them available at locations including schools.

Other locations may charge a fee to cover labor and other overhead costs, though some insurance plans will pay these fees.

Health officials say they expect there will be enough of the vaccine for everyone.

The Pasco County Health Department is working with the schools to reach out to the children, said department spokeswoman Deanna Krautner. The department even plans on offering extended office hours to distribute the vaccines.

In Citrus County, officials say they have produced an educational DVD with a presentation about swine flu, which will be available to the community.

They are prepared to distribute the vaccine once it arrives.

Citrus County Health Department spokesperson Judith Tear said they already have 28 groups, including pediatricians and obstetricians, signed up to distribute the vaccine once it arrives.

"Getting vaccinated is not mandatory, this is strictly voluntary," said Tear. "Your health is an individual choice."


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