H1N1 Vaccine Arrives

The first doses of the swine flu vaccine have arrived in Meridian, but they are in the form of nasal spray instead of a shot.

But the nasal spray is only being given to individuals who are the most at risk for contracting the virus.

Health care officials say this is because the nasal spray is a live vaccine which requires people to stay out of contact with others for at least 48 hours after getting vaccinated. The shot version will be available soon.

"Rush is going to follow the orders from the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health," said Rush Hospital marketing director Laura Davis.

Rush and Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center and Riley Hospital in Meridian will handle the H1N1 vaccine.

"We're going to be getting different allotments each week. We'll get several thousand each week throughout the season," said Andrea Laird, director for Occupational Health and Infection Control at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center.

With 195 million doses of the vaccine being produced nationally, local officials say there should be an ample amount of the vaccine available for the public. However, in case there is a major outbreak, officials at the hospitals in Meridian are developing plans on how to handle the situation and a possible shortage of hospital beds.

"We would be looking at patients that are already in our hospital, if we could go ahead and discharge these. If we could cancel elective surgeries, unnecessary admissions," said Sharon Brown of the Occupational Health and Infection Control Department at Riley Hospital.

If needed, officials from Riley, Rush and Anderson hospitals say patients could be transferred to hospitals in other areas, but only if there was no room at any of the hospitals here.

The hospitals are encouraging people who are most vulnerable to contracting the virus, such as women who are pregnant, young children and the chronically ill, to get vaccinated.

"We do encourage this because we really don't know the impact that it will have on us," said Laird.

Thirteen cases of the swine flu have been documented in Lauderdale County. Because of the rapid spread of the virus, many doctors stopped testing for it. Health care officials say the actual numbers are likely much higher that what has been documented. So far there have been no deaths from the virus in Lauderdale County.

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