Santa Clara declares H1N1 flu emergency

September 29, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Officials in the South Bay are doing more than just bracing for a second wave of the H1N1 flu. On Tuesday they declared a state of emergency so they can act swiftly.

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Schools know how quickly H1N1 can spread, and shut them down when it surfaced last April and May. Supervisors in Santa Clara County took steps Tuesday to be ready if there is a second wave. County health officer Dr. Marty Fenstersheib says some South Bay schools already are seeing H1N1 cases this fall.

"A number of them are reporting anywhere from a third to half the classroom out because of influenza-like illness," he said. "Well, it appears that almost everything that's looking like flu right now is H1N1."

Officials at San Jose Unified School District report high absenteeism last month as the school year started. On Tuesday, one classroom had eight children out sick with flu. The board of supervisors approved moving a $500,000 out of a reserve fund to the county's office of emergency services. Fenstersheib says that money is to be set aside in readiness and not used right away.

The supervisors also declared a local emergency, allowing health officials to mobilize volunteers to help with H1N1 flu vaccinations. The demand will exceed the supply of nurses and other health practitioners. For example, half of the state's 1,000 school districts do not have nurses.

For those people who get the flu, Santa Clara County has made arrangements to distribute the anti-viral Tamiflu to local drug stores for free if they are not insured, and if they have a prescription.

"We have arranged for those few pharmacies that Walgreen's has, that are 24/7 pharmacies, that will have some of our free stockpile for those that can't afford it or are underinsured," Fenstersheib said.

There is still no word on exactly when the H1N1 vaccine will be available locally, other than sometime early next month. According to Dr. Fenstersheib, about half of the county's population is in the high-risk category needing the vaccine.

That is roughly 850,000 people.

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