Health department to offer H1N1 vaccine

COVINGTON -- The East Metro Health District announced that the Newton County Health Center in Covington will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. to offer the H1N1 influenza vaccine.

"We understand that people are busy during the week and often find it difficult to come to one of our clinics during regular business hours," said Suleima Salgado, public information officer for the district in an earlier interview. "We hope our Saturday clinics will meet the needs of the community and make the vaccine available to those who are interested."

The health department is located on Hazelbrand Road, behind the Newton County Library.

The vaccine will be available to people who fall into the priority groups recommended by the CDC:

* Pregnant women;

* Health care and emergency medical personnel;

* People who live with or care for infants younger than 6 months;

* Anyone age 6 months to 24 years; and

* Anyone from 25 to 64 years of age who has medical conditions that put them at higher risk for influenza-related complications.

No appointment is necessary and the vaccine will be provided at no charge; however, it is urged that Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance cards be presented for billing purposes.

Health Department clinics in Lawrenceville, Norcross, Buford, Conyers and Covington will continue providing the H1N1 vaccine during regular clinic hours. Those interested should call the clinic first to confirm availability -- the Newton County clinic can be reached at 770-786-9086 or the Rockdale County clinic can be reached at 770-785-5936. Contact information for all health clinics can be found at www.EastMetroHealth.com.

Also, the public is encouraged to continue to follow basic preventative steps to avoid the spread of germs, such as frequently washing hands, covering the mouth and nose while coughing or sneezing and staying at home when sick.

According to the CDC Web site, 46 states, including Georgia, reported widespread influenza activity. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza last week was above the epidemic threshold for the sixth consecutive week.

Thirty-five influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported. Twenty-six of these deaths were associated with the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus infection.

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 6.7 percent, a slight decline and the second week of national decreases in doctors visits for influenza-like symptoms after four consecutive weeks of sharp increases above the national baseline of 2.3 percent.