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Health officials say H1N1 still a threat

The H1N1 (swine) flu virus may not be making as many headlines, but illnesses from the flu are still being confirmed in Yakima County.

Although the H1N1 vaccine has been opened up to the general public, the Yakima Health District estimates that only about 10 to 15 percent of the county's population has been vaccinated with the vaccine.

Because H1N1 (swine) is a new strain of flu, most people would have little to no immunity to the illness without vaccination. Low levels of immunity in the community mean it could be possible to see another wave of disease, health officials say. They add the surest way to prevent H1N1 illness is to be vaccinated.

"Many people may have been infected with the H1N1 virus during the fall, but most were not tested and therefore H1N1 was not confirmed," according to Marianne Patnode, Communicable Disease Services Coordinator for the health district. "Even if people think they were infected with H1N1, it is still safe for them to receive the vaccine as an added precaution."

H1N1 vaccine is now available to everyone. It is being offered at approximately 80 sites in Yakima County, including doctor's offices, community health centers and retail pharmacies. The vaccine itself is free of charge, but vaccine providers may charge a fee of up to $20 for administering the vaccine.

To ensure vaccine is available to everyone, a limited number of providers have also agreed to waive the fee for anyone who cannot afford to pay. Participating sites include the Bi-Mart Pharmacy in Sunnyside at 110 South Hill Road, 839-0766.

The only other Lower Valley pharmacy to offer free H1N1 vaccinations to qualifying individuals is Gibbons Pharmacy at 117 South Toppenish Ave. in Toppenish, 509-865-2722.

Additionally, many doctor's offices are carrying the H1N1 vaccine for their established patients.

Check with your provider's office. Some doctor's offices may also waive fees for their patients who are unable to pay.

Additional information is available by calling the health district at 509-249-6533 or 509-249-6511 for Spanish language assistance.

1 John Fannin 1/7/2010 2:10 PM

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