Swine flu pandemic over, drama-free season expected
After a swine flu epidemic last year, the St. Charles Community Health Center says that residents can stop worrying about contracting the virus.
Symptoms that mirrored the swine flu, also known as the H1N1 virus, sent hundreds of parishioners home from school and work last fall.
Julia Bodden, with the Health Center, said that a significant decrease in the number of flu cases is expected this year.
“The Centers for Disease Control has reported that the H1N1 flu epidemic has ended,” Bodden said. “We do not anticipate the same number of cases of flu this year. While we do have an increase in cases of flu each year in the fall and winter we expect to have numbers similar to the 2008 flu season.”
Andrew Sandoz was one parish resident who was hit hard by the swine flu virus.
During his first few days as a freshman at Southeastern Louisiana University in September 2009, Sandoz came down with flu-like symptoms.
Less than a week later, Sandoz was admitted into Ochsner Medical Center with pneumonia. Despite treatment, his lungs deteriorated rapidly and he began to suffocate from lack of oxygen. He was induced into a coma for a month while a respirator was used to keep him alive while his lungs healed.
It was discovered that Sandoz was suffering from acute respiratory disease syndrome, or ARDS, brought on by a case of the swine flu.
When Sandoz first visited the doctor, a test for the H1N1 virus came out negative. But later, the test was found to have been wrong.
Doctors at Ochsner told Sandoz that they saw an increase in ARDS associated with the swine flu last year, especially in 18- to 30-year-old young adults, so they began treating all flu cases as if they were the swine strain because of so many false negatives.
Sandoz, now in his second semester at the university studying music education, said that he has almost completely recovered from the illness that could have taken his life.
“I still have some nerve damage in my left foot due to the paralyzing drug the doctors sedated me with,” Sandoz said, but that is a small price to pay for a method that saved his life.
Sandoz said that after the shock of being diagnosed and almost losing his life last year, he plans to live to the fullest.
“I’m just doing the best that I can in everything that I do,” he said.
A factor in the spread of the flu in St. Charles Parish last year was a lack of vaccine.
“There is not a shortage of vaccine this year and we will be offering flu shots to the community,” Bodden said. “The shortage last year was because the H1N1 vaccine production was started late in the year as the spread of the virus increased.”
Bodden said that the flu vaccine that is available at the health center is recommended by the CDC. Swine flu shots are no longer being offered. Flu vaccines generally last one season and should be repeated yearly.
But Bodden said everyone should consult their medical provider for specific information on their need to be immunized. More information can also be found at the CDC’s Web site: www.cdc.gov.
Starting on Monday, Aug. 30, the St. Charles Community Health Center will be offering flu shots for $10 at all of their sites: 843 Milling Ave. in Luling, 941 First St. in Norco and 200 West Esplanade Suite 13 in Kenner. Walk-ins are welcome and no appointment is necessary.
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