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Public session to air swine flu plan

A public information session on Niagara County's plans for immunization against the H1N1 flu virus is set from 7 to 9 p.m. Monday in Niagara County Community College.

Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton told the Board of Health on Thursday that Health Department officials have been meeting with school district administrators to work out details of the county's plan to hold mass vaccination clinics in schools.

"We expect to get our first shipment [of vaccine] around the middle of October," Stapleton said. "We'll have vaccine available for every member of the public who wants it."

But not all at once. Vaccine shipments will continue as manufacturers produce more of the drug. "This is a marathon, not a sprint," Stapleton said.

Schools were chosen as the vaccination places because the flu virus, popularly but incorrectly called swine flu, seems to be most dangerous for children and pregnant women.

The flu shot clinics will target some 69,000 Niagara County residents: school-age children, their families and teachers and others who work with children. Health care workers and emergency personnel also are priority recipients.

The H1N1 shots are different from the regular seasonal flu shots, since the viruses are different. One will not protect against the other.

Stapleton said obtaining a regular flu shot should be a priority for everyone vulnerable to the flu.

Swine flu will have exactly the same symptoms as regular flu and for most people, will be fought off in a week or so, just as the regular flu is.

The Health Department's clinics will not be the only source of H1N1 vaccine. Hospitals will have supplies, as will many private clinics and individual doctors, Stapleton said.

Monday's meeting, to be held in Building E, Room 140 on NCCC's Sanborn campus, will start with a presentation on the new flu and the county's response plan, led by Elaine Roman, the Health Department's planning and information officer.

Then a panel of doctors and other experts will offer tips and answer questions and respond to suggestions from audience members.

County Manager Gregory D. Lewis and Legislature Chairman William L. Ross also are scheduled to attend.

Stapleton said the entire meeting will be videotaped and posted on the YouTube Web site for the benefit of county residents who can't attend.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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