Ted Simons: The American Lung Association of Arizona kicked off its "Faces of Influenza" campaign this morning. It's an effort to remind people to get their flu shots. Mayor Phil Gordon was among those participating in a press conference to get the campaign underway.
Phil Gordon: We've done this every year. And I think it's important that we continue to remind our existing residents and those that have come to our city how critically important it is to receive the influenza shot. It's about public health. This isn't just about a cold. Or somebody sneezes. Has a runny nose and then bear it is and gets to work or gets to school. This is a serious, serious disease that can infect much larger numbers if precautions aren't taken. First and foremost, as the doctors inform me is to get the shot. It's simple. It's relatively painless. And it's inexpensive and anyone that can't afford it, please let the city or the county or the state know. Number two is to do the things that we've been learning about over the last year or two. Wash your hands whenever you can because if you're carrying some germs, a virus from someone else that's just an unnecessary way to spread it. Certainly, cover your mouth, cover your nose when sneezing and coughing and turn your head away. And lastly, if you're sick, stay at home, don't go to school and don't go to work.
Ted Simons: Earlier today, I talked to Phoenix Fire Chief Bob Khan about the need for flu shots. Thanks for joining us tonight on "Horizon."
Bob Khan: Thanks, Ted.
Ted Simons: Reports are maybe the first doses of swine flu vaccine should be in the U.S. by mid October. Ring true for you?
Bob Khan: Hearing the same thing. Around the middle of October for the H1N1, I think around a million vaccines for the state of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Also hearing in the country overall, you could have significant casualties. Fatalities if there's no mass vaccination program in the state, throughout the states. Again, that make sense to you?
Bob Khan: You know, most people don't recognize this until we get into the season, but believe it or not, every year across the United States, there will be 36,000 people, roughly, that will die from the flu and over 250,000 will go to the hospital. It's more serious than people recognize and the H1N1 isn't necessarily a worse strain. It's just one we haven't been vaccinated against.
Ted Simons: We should make that clear. Because we hear horror stories from the southern hemisphere and those are often people with preexisting conditions. The problem with the new one is so many haven't been exposed yet.
Bob Khan: That's exactly it. First responders are concerned and hospitals and everybody in the medical profession have great concerns. The Arizona department of health services is working with the CDC to do forecasting so we can stay in front of this flu.
Ted Simons: The importance of first responders getting the vaccines early. Talk to us about that.
Bob Khan: We did a program where we did a massive inoculation to our firefighters. Tried to get 80% of them vaccinated today and it's a drill where we use it as a way to monitor our firefighters and get them the flu shot and do accountability but also gives them the first layer of protection. If you think about it, we respond to calls a year. 100,000 of those calls will be medical. A fractured leg or burn injury but you're laying your hands on those patients and our firefighters will see literally 100,000 people who are not necessarily healthy.
Ted Simons: Schoolchildren, at schools, mass vaccination programs, these are not mandatory, correct?
Bob Khan: They're not. I have a six and eight-year-old and they're a petri dish for everything. We've not had to have the flu run through our house because we believe strongly in the immunization and the vaccines and it really will give you the layer of protection. Especially for the younger kids.
Ted Simons: Talk about that. So many parents are concerned. Not comfortable with getting this vaccine for their children. Are they unfounded?
Bob Khan: I talked to Dr. Bob England and -- says those are wise tales and typically, your arm gets sore. There's one in a million chances that you may have a reaction to it, but everything that I'm hearing and reading, and there again, I'm not a medical professional, but everything I've seen is that's just a wise tale.
Ted Simons: For those who say I never get the flu and never get a flu shot, this particular strain is Johnny come lately.
Bob Khan: It's very contagious and put you down for seven to nine days and if you have preexisting medical conditions, it can be worse. Talking to the healthcare professionals I know, the numbers can be as high as a thousand fatalities in the state of Arizona and 250 kids. Those are significant numbers.
Ted Simons: Focusing on children, there might have been something in the late '50s and maybe as far back as the '30s, separate strains that were similar.
Bob Khan: That's why people who are older aren't as susceptible. But if you're younger and haven't been exposed to those strains of influenza, that's why you need the get the shot. There's three mutations in the shots they typically give you for the influenza virus and so when you get that, you're building up antibodies for the flu and it gives you resistance. This strain, very contagious has not been around since those times and there's not a lot of resistance or antibodies built up.
Ted Simons: Am I hearing there might be a nasal vaccine?
Bob Khan: My six-year-old did that, and there's a nasal injection as opposed to the needle in the arm and we used it for my child and seemed to work fine. It goes up the nose and it's a nasal injection of the vaccine.
Ted Simons: Ok. So if you're worried about a sore arm you can go that route or it should be for certain folks at certain times?
Bob Khan: I would defer to my pediatrician but she seemed it was fine and didn't require the wrestling of getting the shot itself.
Ted Simons: Kids 4 months to 6 years, pregnant women and adults caring for these kinds of kids, should be first in line.
Bob Khan: Yes, sir, absolutely. I see no reason not to go down that road, Ted, and Dr. Bob England, talked to physicians but everything I'm seeing and reading and talking to our health professionals are saying get the immunization.
Ted Simons: And if you get the doses in mid October, it's all systems are go, what about the rest of us?
Bob Khan: The flu shot now is available. Your typical flu shot for the three strains I referred to. When the CDC and Arizona Department of Health Services come up with the plan, that I am look at the target areas and the less vulnerable folks will get in line after that. They'll design a plan and they're currently working on that at this point. They're very busy.
Ted Simons: Are you concerned there's so much information out there by weigh of the internet and all other electronic forms that scare stories and horror stories and misinformation is flying around and parents might get the wrong information?
Bob Khan: You know, everybody seems to be doing a pretty good job and most responsible parents are going to say -- defer to their pediatricians or healthcare providers. If there are folks who aren't getting the good information, go to the CDC website or the Arizona department of health services. Somewhere where it’s reputable. Not necessarily the blogs that might be throwing rhetoric out there and some conspiracy theories, if you would.
Ted Simons: Your two kids vaccinated?
Bob Khan: I got vaccinated today. And they're in line to get vaccinated.
Ted Simons: Thanks for joining us.
Bob Khan: Thanks, Ted.