H1N1 Update

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Will Humble, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, has the latest on the H1N1 virus and the State’s vaccination plans.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. A new development in the ongoing feud between Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas and the Board of Supervisors. In a ruling released this morning, the superior court judge says the board is justified in basically firing Thomas from handling its civil cases. The board created its own civil litigation unit citing a conflict of interest after Thomas began investigating a board member. The judge says Thomas did not follow rules of professional conduct in dealing with the board, but the judge says that when those rules of conduct are followed and no conflicts of interest exist, then Thomas's office should be the attorney of record for Maricopa County. As of Wednesday we've had over 1100 confirmed cases of the H1N1 swine flu virus in Arizona. That includes 116 new cases identified in the last seven days. Meanwhile the state working on a plan to distribute a vaccine. Here to talk about that is Will Humble, he Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. Good to see you again, thanks for joining us.

Will Humble: Good afternoon, or good evening.

Ted Simons: Feds are saying half of the U.S. could get infected by this pandemic. Are you buying that?

Will Humble: Well they had a range of between 30-50%. So it could be as bad as 50%. A lot of that depends on how seriously people take this. And whether they change their behavior and do those simple things like washing their hands, staying away from work when they're sick, make sure they don't send their kids to school when they're sick. So folks do those things, we have a chance to have it closer to 30 than 50.

Ted Simons: Children and young adults could get hit the hardest. Why?

Will Humble: Well, it looks so far like it's kids, adolescents, and young adults that are hit the hardest by this virus. We don't exactly know why. We do know seniors are at a lower risk of complications from the virus. The theory behind that is that they were exposed to a similar virus in the '30s or '40s and therefore have some level of protection against this new virus. But you're right, it's kids, as adolescents, and young adults that are the most impacted.

Ted Simons: Is it the young adults, because they are parents of kids and many they're young folk? Why the young folk and not middle aged adults?

Will Humble: We're not sure. It could be they're getting exposed more frequently because they have kids and preschool age kids who bring home lots of different things. So that could be part of it. We're not really sure, but the trend is really consistent. We're seeing that constant trend of everything from toddlers to young adults being sort of a target group, which is why that's where we'll be focusing our vaccine when it comes in October.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about that vaccine. When is it going to get here? You say October. Is there going to be enough in October to vaccinate everyone who needs the vaccine?

Will Humble: Well, there's not going to be enough in October to cover everyone that needs it, but there will be enough to cover those high priority groups, which is going to be toddlers and preschoolers, kids of all ages with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, caregivers of babies, newborns, moms, and so forth, and health care workers that have direct patient care. So we're expecting about 800,000 doses to possibly a million in October, and when you look at that broad spectrum of priority groups, that's about how many folks that we'll be targeting in October. So there's a decent match in that respect.

Ted Simons: Do we know as yet fits going to take one shot or two?

Will Humble: That's a huge question that we're all waiting to find out in the public health system. And in the health care community generally. It's a big -- the number one outlying question in terms of this response. Because if it takes an initial H1N1 shot and then a booster shot, it really complicates matters. That means you've got to find -- you've got to get the vaccine into somebody and track them down between six and eight weeks later and give them a boost. That sounds easy, but in public health practice and as pediatricians will tell you, it's not the easiest thing in the world to get people to come back. So we're crossing our fingers and hoping that the clinical trials that are out there right now will show you that one shot is good enough.

Ted Simons: Further complicating matters, you're still suggesting a regular flu shot be added as well.

Will Humble: The regular flu shot we hope just goes just like always. So what we want folks to do with regular seasonal flu is do what you normally would do. In fact, pediatricians already have the seasonal flu, many of them do, in their office right now. So pediatric providers have the regular flu sitting on hand and kids are getting those shots now, and it won't be long before you start to see those signs on the street that say flu shots today, and those will be regular seasonal flu shots, which are just as valuable as they have ever been.

Ted Simons: And for those who don't usually get a flu shot, they say I don't usually get the flu, these sorts of things, the reason this H1N1-- it's not so much that it's a severe form of flu, but it seems to spread so rapidly.

Will Humble: ou hit the nail right on the head. That is, this virus, this new H1N1 virus is justs about as severe as regular seasonal flu, but we have a lot more people that are susceptible because it's a brand-new virus, no one has been exposed to it before, so nobody has immunity, and it hasn't been in vaccines before, so no one has residual immunity from vaccines they've had in the past, so everyone is susceptible, which means that it's that much easier to transmit person-to-person.

Ted Simons: As far as the vaccines are concerned, do we know, first of all, how safe the H1N1 swine flu vaccine is, and do we know how safe it is to get that vaccine with the regular flu vaccine?

Will Humble: Those are two questions that will be answered in about two to three weeks. The C.D.C. is conducting clinical trials right now to determine those two questions. We talked earlier about, is it going to take one shot and a booster, or is one going to be enough? That's called efficacy. They're also looking at the complications. Is it safe. They're look at the question, is it -- is there any problem giving a regular seasonal flu along with H1N1, and then the H1N1 shot itself, is it safe, are there unknown consequences to getting the vaccine. Those clinical trials are well underway and we expect those results in early September.

Ted Simons: OK. You referred to this earlier, but let's wrap it up with the idea of prevention. Is it just as simple as washing your hands?

Will Humble: I know it sounds trivial. People say, come on, how can that make a difference? It does. Studies show it really works. That's -- the things your grandmother tried to drill in you is stuff that's real. Hand washing, keeping your hands away from your mouth and face, and those two things will do -- will go a long way towards protecting you. And then your responsibility to your community and your coworkers is to stay away from work when you're sick, and for crying out loud don't send your kid to school when they're sick, which is why it's important right now for families to have a contingency plan so that when their kids get sick throughout the school year, when we see a big bump in October, that they're not pressured into making a bad decision, and sending that kid to school. So it's about talking to aunts and uncles, and grandmas, and all that stuff to figuring out what are you going to do so you can still go to work and not be forced to send your kid to school sick.

Ted Simons:All right. Good information. Thanks for joining us. We appreciate it.
Will Humble: Take care.

Will Humble:Director, Arizona Department of Health Services;

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