Monday, October 26, 2009

Lots of Snow Out West

Severe Storms and Blizzard

The big story this week will be the storm coming through the West into the western Great Lakes. Many areas of the West will get heavy snow and high winds. Please see Ken Clark's blog for California weather specifics. Some comments from me...

1. Denver will get heavy snow and probably 6-12 inches by Wednesday into Thursday...

2. Areas from eastern Oregon to Utah and Wyoming will have 2-6 inches of snow.

3. Severe weather will develop from Missouri to Texas Thursday and Friday. Looks to me that a good outbreak of wind damage and tornadoes may occur.

4. High winds will hit the Great Lakes region Friday into Saturday. Winds will be gusting 40-60 mph.

5. Winnipeg will have a blizzard Friday and Saturday that will shut down the city the way I see it right now. I can see over a foot of snow with winds over 50 mph.

Update on Flu vacines in parts of Portland Metro area

The H1N1 vaccine remains in short supply nationwide due to delays by manufacturers producing the vaccine.

In the Portland area, the delays mean some public clinics have been canceled. Other clinics are offering only a limited number of doses. The small amounts currently available are being targeted toward children under five years of age and pregnant women, who are six times more likely to die from H1N1. Some counties are also reaching out to school children.

The production delay has led CDC officials to revise downward their vaccine delivery targets by 25 percent through the end of October. CDC officials say the revision reflects the unpredictability of the manufacturing process, which involved growing the virus in chicken eggs. Two manufacturers achieved smaller yields from this process than they had projected.

Health officials continue to expect that shipments will ramp up and availability of the vaccine will increase.

Shipments arriving in the Portland metro area this week will be about the same size as last week’s batch. Here is the rough breakdown of what is expected here:

County Doses
Clackamas 3,100
Multnomah 6,000
Washington 4,500

Earlier this month marked the first time that some clinics received injectable vaccine, which contains a H1N1 virus that has been “inactivated” or killed.

Until now, the only form of vaccine available was the FluMist nasal spray. Because FluMist contains a live flu virus, it is only appropriate for healthy people age 2 to 49. Pregnant women and children under age 2 need the injectable vaccine, which contains virus that has been “inactivated” or killed.

From Sept. 1 throught Oct. 21 , a total of 449 people in Oregon were hospitalized and 15 died from Influenza A virus. Not all of these patients were tested for H1N1, but nationally nearly all samples that have been laboratory sub-typed in recent weeks were H1N1.

All Influenza A cases, Sept. 1 through Oct. 21
County Hospitalizations Deaths
Clackamas 46 0
Clark and Region IV 15 0
Columbia 0 0
Multnomah 62 1
Washington 54 0

Schools throughout the region report seeing an increase of absences due to influenza-like illness.

Oregon has now adopted a temporary rule allowing some emergency medical technicians and paramedics to administer flue vaccine to the general public. Before, EMTs could only vaccinate other EMTs. Clark County, Wash., adopted similar rules.

State and county epidemiologists are monitoring school absences and reports of hospitalizations to track the spread of the virus.

Public information officers regionally are pooling information and coordinating availability of key spokesperons in response to requests from news organizations.

OBAMA declared H1N1 flu emergency

Washington (CNN) -- President Obama has declared a national emergency to deal with the "rapid increase in illness" from the H1N1 influenza virus.

"The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities," Obama said in a statement.

"Thus, in recognition of the continuing progression of the pandemic, and in further preparation as a nation, we are taking additional steps to facilitate our response."

The president signed the declaration late Friday and announced it Saturday.

Calling the emergency declaration "an important tool in our kit going forward," one administration official called Obama's action a "proactive measure that's not in response to any new development." Having trouble finding vaccine? Share your story

Another administration official said the move is "not tied to the current case count" and "gives the federal government more power to help states" by lifting bureaucratic requirements -- both in treating patients and moving equipment to where it's most needed.

The officials didn't want their names used because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

Obama's action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements" to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.

Those requirements are contained in Medicare, Medicaid and state Children's Health Insurance programs, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy rule.

Since the H1N1 flu pandemic began in April, millions of people in the United States have been infected, at least 20,000 have been hospitalized and more than 1,000 have died, said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Watch how to find out if you have H1N1

Frieden said that having 46 states reporting widespread flu transmission is traditionally the hallmark of the peak of flu season. To have the flu season peak at this time of the year is "extremely unusual."

The CDC said 16.1 million doses of H1N1, or swine flu, vaccine had been made by Friday -- 2 million more than two days earlier. About 11.3 million of those had been distributed throughout the United States, Frieden said.

"We are nowhere near where we thought we would be," Frieden said, acknowledging that manufacturing delays have contributed to less vaccine being available than expected. "As public health professionals, vaccination is our strongest tool. Not having enough is frustrating to all of us."

Frieden said that while the way vaccine is manufactured is "tried and true," it's not well-suited for ramping up production during a pandemic because it takes at least six months. The vaccine is produced by growing weakened virus in eggs.

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