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H1N1 vaccines will be offered this summer

Next year it will be one-stop shopping in the flu shot department as manufacturers combine seasonal flu serum with H1N1 prevention in the same inoculation.

Meanwhile, Hubbard County will continue to administer H1N1 flu vaccines throughout the summer in case the region experiences a third wave of the illness.

To date, 4,500 vaccines have been given to Hubbard County residents, a rate of nearly 30 percent of the total population.

Those were the figures community health director Chris Broeker gave to the Hubbard County Board Wednesday.

"As long as we're directed to by the State Health Department," the county will continue to administer the vaccines, she said. The county still has vaccine serum available.

Recent statistics show Minnesota placed eighth in the country for vaccination rates and first in administering the H1N1 vaccine to people ages 25-64 with chronic health concerns.

"How virulent was this flu?" questioned commissioner Don Carlson.

"Well, it killed people but all flu does," Broeker said.

The county experienced almost no seasonal flu episodes over the winter.

"It was all H1N1," she added.

There remain "isolated pockets" of H1N1 around the nation that continue to be a threat, she said. "This was more harmful to younger people."

Older citizens either got vaccinated against H1N1 or had built up a natural immunity to this strain of flu, Broeker said. Various strains of swine flu have been around for decades, health officials point out.

But she said people also heeded the health threats, changed their behaviors and got vaccines.

"That 4,500 - that was a lot of doses," she said.

It's unknown how any Hubbard County residents came down with H1N1 because only a fraction required hospitalization. Some early cases thought to be seasonal flu were likely not diagnosed as H1N1 but nevertheless were.

Since Sept. 1, 2009, there were 1,560 confirmed cases of H1N1 in hospitalized patients, according to the Minnesota Department of Health.

"Since last April when we started seeing flu there have been 1,820 total cases" that required hospitalization, Broeker said. Many more became ill that didn't go to hospitals, making precise tracking of the disease nearly impossible.

Whether Hubbard County sees a third wave is unknown. Seasonal residents come from out of town and out of state.

"We're not sure how it's going to behave," Broeker said. "If there's a little bit of an outbreak in an area or a population and those people spread the flu around it could certainly be spread that way.

"But I don't think particularly they can say one way or the other what's going to cause it or if anything's going to cause it," she said. "Flu behaves in different ways so we may have more incidents of flu and we may not see another case."

Wednesday the Department of Health reported two additional flu-related deaths. A December death is linked to the H1N1 virus; a March death to influenza B.

The total number of flu deaths in Minnesota is now up to 70 since the H1N1 pandemic began last April.

Sixty-one of those deaths are linked to H1N1.

In its weekly flu update, the health department said there have been no reports of outbreaks in schools.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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