Weekly flu update

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Flu is definitely in the area, said Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health Department.

His department is now tracking the number of visits at urgent-care and emergency health departments by people with symptoms of flu, "so that we'll be able to start looking at patterns," he said.

So far, Crowder has received no reports of excess school absences, he added.

This week, the government just released recommendations about the use of anti-viral medications and made a fresh prioritization of who will be vaccinated when a vaccine is released.

Not everyone will be in line to receive antiviral. The drugs will be available for all those hospitalized with confirmed or suspected flu, as well as those with flu symptoms who are at risk for complications, such as kids under age 5, older adults, pregnant women and those with certain chronic medical conditions.

The priorities for 2009 H1N1 immunizations will include pregnant women, health-care workers, family members and care-givers of children under 6 months of age, people from 6 months to 24 years old and individuals between ages 25 and 65 with underlying medical conditions that can worsen the impact of flu.

Should vaccine supplies be inadequate, the subset of those getting vaccination against swine flu narrows, Crowder noted. That includes dropping the broadest category to kids less that 4 years old and vaccinating only health-care workers who provide direct care.

In the meantime, follow the mantra, he added -- "Cover your cough, wash your hands, stay home if you're sick.

If you have difficulty breathing, chest pain, lots of discomfort, call your doctor and follow that advice."

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