Suzi Mariano, the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association's public information coordinator, said manufacturers are creating a swine flu vaccine that will be distributed by the federal government to local public health departments. Because there's uncertainty about how much of the vaccine the VNA will receive, high-risk people such as pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions will likely be the first to be vaccinated. The VNA also serves Moffat and Jackson counties, further thinning what could be a limited vaccination supply.
Mariano added that there's been no indication whether a H1N1 vaccination will consist of one or multiple shots, and said it would be administered in addition to a seasonal flu shot.
Mariano said local VNA officials won't know more about the H1N1 vaccination until October. The VNA's drop-in flu clinics for seasonal flu shots will begin later this month.
Steamboat Springs Local school districts are gearing up for the possibility of a swine flu outbreak this fall.
Unlike the Front Range - where about 50 University of Colorado at Boulder students have tested "probable" for the H1N1 flu - there have been no recent cases reported in Routt County, including in local schools.
Nonetheless, county school, health and emergency management officials are preparing for something they hope won't happen. They've been meeting semi-regularly since last spring after the virus was first reported.
At a meeting held by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association last week, school officials were briefed on the current status of H1N1, which puts school-age children in one of the high-risk categories.
"There is a virus out there that is different than the seasonal flu. It has a higher transmission rate than the seasonal flu," Suzi Mariano, the VNA's public information coordinator, said. "We and the school districts are trying to plan should there be an outbreak or a concern in the county. There is a vaccine coming hopefully in the next couple months. We should know more about how much and what's available in October."
How do you know if you're sick?
The VNA says flu-like symptoms include a fever higher than 100 degrees, body aches, cough, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. People experiencing these symptoms are advised to stay home and avoid contact with others. People with mild symptoms don't need to be tested, but people with severe symptoms should seek medical care from their primary physician.
According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there have been 70 hospitalizations and one death statewide as a result of H1N1 since April 27. The one known Routt County resident who tested positive for H1N1 had only a mild case and fully recovered.
State officials report that the 5 to 17 age group has been the most hospitalized, at 31 percent and 22 cases. It was followed by the younger than 5 age group, at 23 percent and 16 cases, and then the 18 to 39 group, at 21 percent and 15 cases. The 60-and-older age group was the least hospitalized, at 6 percent and only four cases.
Routt County's public school districts hope to prevent an H1N1 outbreak by reminding parents and students to wash their hands frequently, cough into their elbows and stay home if they feel sick. Each district superintendent said they met with their staffs this week specifically about H1N1.
If an outbreak were to occur, the superintendents in Steamboat Springs, South Routt and Hayden said they would rely on sharing information and strategies with one another and address the issue with a consistent approach.
"What that group does, what the county does, affects each of our school districts," South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said.
Mader said it's important to keep parents up to date about what they can do if their children get sick and how the district will proceed.
"We want to be transparent," he said. "If things come up, we'll let them know. I don't think the fear factor is there as it was at one time, but we're still going to be vigilant."
Unlike last year, when a single confirmed H1N1 case could have closed an entire school, that won't happen this year - based on a recent recommendation not to by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the superintendents said.
"There could be a scenario where schools close," Hayden Superintendent Greg Rockhold said, adding that it likely would take more than 30 percent of the district's students missing school to even begin discussing the possibility.
Just in case, teachers have been instructed to prepare lessons plans further into the future as well as prepare materials that could be easily sent home with students.
Brian Hoza, assistant campus dean of student services at Colorado Mountain College's Alpine campus, said in the event students have to miss extended periods of classroom time or if the campus was closed as a result of H1N1, college officials will attempt to make most instructional materials and lessons available online.
The superintendents also are worried that if a flu outbreak occurs in late September, it could affect the districts' official student count, taken Oct. 1. That's problematic because the official student count determines how much per-pupil funding the districts receive from the state.
Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said the district has been working with the Colorado Department of Education on a temporary waiver of the count if the flu creates an exorbitant number of absences.
"I can only imagine if schools across Colorado are experiencing higher-than-average absence rates, this would be an unusual year and some expectations should have to be made," Cunningham said.
Mariano said the VNA will continue to meet with the school districts. Bob Struble, director of the Routt County Office of Emergency Management, said it's important to keep up the communication. Then, in a worst-case scenario, the schools will be prepared.
"I'm hoping this won't be an emergency situation," Cunningham said.