Vaccinations still available with future of H1N1 uncertain

After waking up feeling weak with a headache, Bill Warrick headed to the McKinley Health Center to see if he could pick up medicine. The doctor told the senior in ACES a quick 15 minutes later that he should take the next five days off – he might have the H1N1 flu.

McKinley has diagnosed about 1,500 University students with the swine flu this fall, and at the peak, nine percent of visits to the health center were because of the flu. Doctors at both McKinley and Carle Clinic rely on symptoms such as fevers, headaches, chills and a sore throat to diagnose patients with H1N1 flu.

One reason for the high number of cases could be the lack of testing for the virus.

“There aren’t any good rapid tests,” said Dr. David Lawrance, medical director of McKinley Health Center in an e-mail interview. “Though we have a test, it isn’t used much. It is wrong more than it is correct.”

Although Warrick did not have a fever, a common symptom of the flu, McKinley made the diagnosis of the possibility of H1N1 influenza.

“(The doctor) came in, she checked blood pressure, my heart and temperature and said I didn’t look good. She said, ‘Do you know what I think it is, I think it’s the flu,’” Warrick said. “I didn’t have a fever or anything, but I guess they wanted to be safe.”

Even with the lack of testing available, Lawrance said that he thinks that McKinley has been “pretty good” with diagnoses.

The peak of the number of H1N1 cases was about two weeks ago, said Dr. Thomas Sutter, Carle’s division head of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Typically the peak of flu season is not until February. Both representatives from McKinley and Carle Clinic think it is possible that the flu might peak again this winter.

“Peak flu season generally occurs in the winter months,” Lawrance said in an e-mail. “That is what makes this outbreak so unusual. It has no respect for occurring during its proper season.”

Lawrance said McKinley is expecting one of four possible situations for the winter. The first would be a second peak as more winter strains emerge. The second would be a long flu season lasting through May with peaks scattered throughout. The third would be a large peak in the spring, with the final possibility being a smaller wave because of the number of people who have received the vaccine.

Vaccinations for the flu are available at Carle Clinic.

Carle Clinic has about 4,000 doses of the vaccination and began distributing it on Monday.

“We hope we have enough to continue through the week,” Sutter said. “It’s first come, first serve.”

The seasonal vaccine costs $40, while the live nasal vaccine is $45 at Carle Clinic’s location at 1818 Windsor Road in Champaign.

The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District and Christie Clinic will also be holding a free H1N1 Vaccination Clinic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at Christie Clinic at 1801 Windsor Road, in Champaign.

“I’ve never experienced anything like this season of influenza,” Lawrance said. “Anyone is allowed to guess at what will happen.”