Balto. County to administer FluMist vaccine at clinics

Few injections available

first spray date is Dec. 30

December 23, 2003|By Linda Linley | Linda Linley,SUN STAFF

With a high number of flu cases reported in Maryland, the Baltimore County Health Department has scheduled clinics to administer FluMist, a newly developed nasal spray, to help meet the increased demand for protection against influenza.

Dr. Michelle Gourdine, the county health officer, said that with only a small amount of injection vaccine available, the county is focusing on the FluMist clinic. The first is scheduled Dec. 30. Additional clinic dates will be scheduled after Jan. 1.

Gourdine said people interested in receiving the nasal spray must call for an appointment. The county is able to obtain only small quantities of the spray because of stringent storage requirements. She emphasized, however, that FluMist is not in short supply and can also be obtained through doctors and private providers.

"The flu started early this year, and the number of cases in Maryland is higher this year than last," Gourdine said. By noon yesterday, 828 cases of flu were reported in the state, said J.B. Hanson, a spokesman for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. In the 2002-2003 flu season, 147 cases were reported.

"We had the first reported case Nov. 19," Hanson said. "The season usually peaks by mid-February."

The FluMist provided to the county is part of the 100,000 doses that were purchased by the state last week from MedImmune Inc. of Gaithersburg to be distributed to local health departments. The spray is an alternative to the standard vaccine that has nearly run out because of the early flu season across the country.

Hanson said the state also is expecting 1,690 injection doses of the vaccine and 815 pediatric doses that will be used for people considered high-risk.

To receive FluMist, individuals must be healthy and between the ages of 5 and 49; not in a high-risk category; and not living with or caring for high-risk people.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define high risk as people older than 65 years of age or between 6 and 23 months old; those with chronic or compromised immune systems; and pregnant women in the second or third trimester.

Gourdine advised that people should take preventive measures by washing their hands frequently and using tissues to cover their mouths when sneezing or coughing. The flu is transmitted through a respiratory droplet, she said.

"During the winter, we are in close quarters, and the germs can spread easily," she said.

To make an appointment to receive a dose of FluMist, call 410-887-2741 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except Christmas Day, when county offices will be closed. The cost per dose is $28, and payment is required by cash or check only.

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