Carson spearheads swine flu regional plan

Carson Human Services is preparing for swine flu in the capital and most of the rest of the area as well.

Human Services Director Marena Works said she agreed to take responsibility for planning for Carson City, Douglas and Lyon counties because their fates are closely linked if and when H1N1, or swine flu, becomes epidemic in western Nevada.

"It's actually a better model," she said. "It brings services down to more local control."

She said that while swine flu hits some groups hard - such as pregnant mothers and infants - experts are now predicting the biggest impact will be on business and government offices.

"We're not going to have a lot of people hospitalized and die, but it may take out big chunks of the workforce," she said.

Works said because people in offices work in close proximity to one another, some businesses and government offices could see 40 percent of employees or more fall victim to the flu at the same time.

She said it makes sense to develop a regional plan to deal with the flu because many state employees who work in Carson City live in neighboring Lyon and Douglas counties. She added that businesses and public agencies should plan ahead if a large number of employees are sick at one time.

When the vaccine arrives, she said there won't be enough to vaccinate everyone who needs it immediately.

"We have to prioritize who gets it first," she said.

At the top of the list are health care workers followed by pregnant women. Caregivers and parents of infants are also on the top of the list as are children and young adults up to 24 years old.

Unlike most flu strains, Works said H1N1 isn't as bad on seniors as it is on teens and children. She said researchers believe a similar strain hit 50-60 years ago and seniors who lived through that still have some residual immunity.

To give the shots, she said, she is hiring 18 nurses who will be on contract through January, four other full time staff on one-year contracts and three clerical staff.

She said there also will be a mobile clinic to reach outlying areas.

Works emphasized that the swine flu vaccine won't cover the regular strain of flu.

"This will not replace the seasonal flu (shots)," she said. "You need both."

For the regular seasonal flu season, she said two vaccination clinics have been scheduled in Carson City along with one each in Douglas and Lyon.

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