N.M. Flu Cases Up, Vaccine Supplies Down
Dec. 04, 2003
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ State officials and health-care providers scrambled to get more vaccine as the flu virus continued its surge through New Mexico.
The 300,000 vaccine doses available in the state this year were nearly gone as influenza spread to 21 of the state's 33 counties. The number of confirmed cases of the disease grew to about 200, Beth Velasquez, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said Wednesday.
The state and at least three health-care organizations were busy buying more vaccine, said Gary Simpson, medical director of the health department's Infectious Disease Bureau. ``As a state, we're almost out of vaccine,'' he said.
The health department, which already ran out of supplies, ordered 10,000 new doses of childhood vaccine and 16,000 doses of adult vaccine. Simpson said the state could get as many as 5,000 pediatric vaccines each week until the national supply is gone.
The need for another round of vaccine supplies is rare in New Mexico.
``We have never, in the last eight to 10 years as a state, found ourselves in the position of purchasing another wave,'' Simpson said.
The flu surge was reflected in numbers reported by New Mexico's flu surveillance system of 18 doctors' clinics around the state. For the week ending Nov. 15, 2.2 percent of people visiting the clinics complained of flu-like illnesses. The following week, the number rose to 3.1 percent, while the week ending Nov. 29 showed 8.25 percent of patients had symptoms of fever, body aches, fatigue and coughing.
Simpson was among those who participated in an emergency conference call Wednesday of a state flu vaccine consortium.
With the increased need and dwindling supply, he said the group of health-care providers was planning to keep an ongoing inventory of the state's vaccine supplies.
The New Mexico Medical Review Association was also working to collect information on flu-fighting efforts by hospitals and other health care facilities. The nonprofit group, which works to improve the quality health care in the state, planned to post information about additional flu-shot clinics on its Web site.
The Navajo Nation on Wednesday also urged its members to get vaccinated as the flu spreads. Clinics across the reservation have been administering flu shots since October.
Meanwhile, officials continued to work to pinpoint how the three children died over the Thanksgiving weekend. One child died at home and two others died at Albuquerque hospitals, ranging in age from 3 months to 3 years. The death of an adult also remained under investigation as possibly flu-caused, according the Health Department.
Results on those cases weren't expected before the end of the week.
The flu has been fast and furious in onset across much of the West. More than 200 cases of the flu have been reported in New Mexico so far this year. This year's flu has been hitting children harder than usual.
``In most flu years, it's very unusual for these numbers of pediatric deaths,'' Simpson said of deaths in surrounding states.
Dr. Joan Baumbach, the Health Department's director of infectious disease epidemiology, told the Albuquerque Journal that many New Mexico parents are spooked after hearing about the investigation into the deaths.
``We will be acquiring as much pediatric influenza vaccine as we can, but there are things parents can do to minimize the risk,'' Simpson said.
He recommended that parents themselves be vaccinated and that they avoid exposing their children to high-risk situations, such as heavily trafficked public areas. Parents should also keep sick kids home and out of child care to minimize transmission, he said.
On the Net:
New Mexico Medical Review Association: www.nmmra.org