Sen. Joe Sweeden is encouraging Oklahomans to prepare for significant increases in swine flu infections this fall. Sweeden this week praised the efforts of the Oklahoma State Health Department, which is surveying medical practices and labs statewide to estimate the spread of H1N1 influenza in Oklahoma. The Department has also launched a swine flu website providing fact sheets and information regarding the disease.
Sweeden encouraged citizens to inform themselves and take preventative measures until vaccinations are made available. The State Health Department this week announced that initial doses of the vaccine could be available in Oklahoma during the first week in October.
“As with seasonal influenza, it’s important that citizens take preventative measures to limit the spread of the virus,” said Sweeden, D-Pawhuska. “Anyone confirmed or suspected to have H1N1 should avoid public places and work until symptoms subside. With young children especially susceptible to the virus, parents must be informed and ensure their children are vaccinated.”
Sweeden noted that 450,000 doses of the vaccine are expected in the first shipment, with weekly allotments of 250,000 to follow immediately. The vaccines will be free to all patients, and will be distributed by county health departments and physicians. The vaccines will first be made available to priority groups such as children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years, pregnant women, children with chronic health conditions and people who live with babies younger than 6 months old. The vaccine will then be offered to all children and adults with chronic health conditions.
Sweeden commended the State Health Department for their efforts to increase public awareness regarding the spread of H1N1.
“The State Health Department has done a tremendous job to provide Oklahomans with the information they need to prepare for the virus,” Sweeden said. “At every step, they have been prepared to handle the onset of swine flu in Oklahoma.”
Health Department officials recently announced the number of swine flu cases in Oklahoma would likely peak in early October. Sweeden is encouraging Oklahomans to visit the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s website at http://www.ok.gov/health/index.html. The site provides information on the virus, along with preventative tips and important contact information.