Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 9, 2009


Host: Ted Simons

Swine Flu and West Nile Virus


  • The state has had its first case of West Nile Virus and officials are preparing for a possible new outbreak of the Swine Flu. Dr. Karen Lewis of the Arizona Department of Health Services will give us an update.
Guests:
  • Dr. Karen Lewis - Arizona Department of Health Services
Category: Medical/Health

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizona already has its first case of West Nile virus of the year. Last year, Arizona had 114 cases of West Nile with seven resulting in death. Also of concern -- the swine flu. It's expected to make a comeback, possibly stronger than before. Last flu season there were 6,071 cases of influenza in Arizona. Swine flu made up 762 of those cases. Officials are preparing for a stronger H1N1 flu. Here to talk about that and the West Nile virus is Dr. Karen Lewis, medical director for immunizations at the Arizona Department of Health. Good to have you here on "Horizon."

Karen Lewis:
Glad to be here.

Ted Simons:
Did the flu season ever end in Arizona?

Karen Lewis:
It's been tremendously long. Usually the last six to eight weeks, it's been over four months so far.

Ted Simons:
Do you think it's going to be die out?

Karen Lewis:
It's slowing in the summer, typically, but since it's a brand new virus that's circulating, it's going to come back this fall and be severe.

Ted Simons:
As far as the new cases, most if not all are the new H1N1, the swine flu?

Karen Lewis:
Exactly, they've been the predominant strain.

Ted Simons:
Who is getting sick?

Karen Lewis:
Mainly the younger people. 90% are under 50 years of age.

Ted Simons:
Surprising?

Karen Lewis:
A little bit. We expected older people to be just as susceptible but it may be that they were infected with a swine flu 50 years ago.

Ted Simons:
Interesting.

Karen Lewis:
And so have some residual immunity.

Ted Simons:
The swine flu is new to us, but not all that new.

Karen Lewis:
The swine -- the bad pandemic flu we had in 1918 was a swine flu and it actually circulated until about 1957 and then disappeared.

Ted Simons:
Very interesting. And I'm guessing that most people aren't reported. The vast majority.

Karen Lewis:
672 had in Arizona, just the tip of the iceberg. The U.S., they estimate a million people have been infected so far.

Ted Simons:
What does this say about fall and winter, the regular flu season?

Karen Lewis:
Most people are going to be susceptible. 20%, 30% more may come down with the new swine flu.

Ted Simons:
We've had reports that one in four could get sick. Three times the usual cases. You see that as well, huh?

Karen Lewis:
Absolutely. Influenza is highly contagious, it's important to prepare this fall and winter.

Ted Simons:
How is the state preparing this fall and winter?

Karen Lewis:
We're planning on how to distribute the vaccine when it it's available and working with hospitals about surge capacity and getting the message out for people to prepare personally and business for what to do if people get sick.

Ted Simons:
Talk more about those contingency plans. That's important -- that's a high number of folks getting sick and if they're all getting sick at the same time, you better have plan B ready, huh?

Karen Lewis:
Influenza isn't just a cough. Its muscle aches and coughing. Can't get out of bed for three to four days and you should stay home for a week. If you can't do -- if you can't work for a week or your child can't go to daycare or school, you need plans.

Ted Simons:
Is the new swine flu version, the H1N1, is it worse in terms of the regular flu?

Karen Lewis:
In terms the death rate, about the same. The regular flu about 36,000 a year die and a quarter of a million hospitalized.

Ted Simons:
Are there mutation concerns with the swine flu?

Karen Lewis:
Influenza as it replicates is always mutating a little bit and that's why every year you need a new flu shot. We're watching the southern hemisphere very closely because it's their winter to see if there's any change. So far, doesn't seem to be any difference.

Ted Simons:
Vaccinations, first, will there be something that addresses swine flu as we know it available in time?

Karen Lewis:
The government is working very hard. The federal government and five different manufacturers are working on it. It's expected to have vaccine potentially for everybody in the United States who wants to get it.

Ted Simons:
Time frame on that?

Karen Lewis:
The earliest, probably November, December.

Ted Simons:
Cutting it close, isn't it?

Karen Lewis:
It is, because we may see more cases come September and October, once kids go back to school.

Ted Simons:
That's the swine flu. Will there be a different vaccine or two needed for the regular flu?

Karen Lewis:
They started working on that six months ago. We're encouraging everybody to get the seasonal influenza so doctors don't have to deal with sick people with that, as well as the regular H1N1 vaccine.

Ted Simons:
Is there going to be enough of the regular available?

Karen Lewis:
We should have ample supply. 120 million doses or more. Unfortunately, most people don't get the regular seasonal influenza. People at high risk, the elderly, pregnant women, children, chronic medical problems, all of those people need it, but even healthy people benefit from the seasonal flu shot.

Ted Simons:
This fall, you're going to have the quote/unquote regular flu flying around, the swine flu flying around. If you don't get any vaccinations whatsoever, the olds aren't good, are they?

Karen Lewis:
The flu shot is the best thing you can do every winter to stay healthy.

Ted Simons:
Let's talk about west Nile quickly. One case?

Karen Lewis:
One case.

Ted Simons:
Where was it?

Karen Lewis:
I actually don't know.

Ted Simons:
Ok.

Karen Lewis:
Number wise, probably Maricopa County.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, I ask that because are there areas of the state, areas of Maricopa County you should try to avoid if you want to avoid West Nile virus?

Karen Lewis:
What you want to do is make sure the area around your home does not have standing water. If you have a bowl with water and a toy that has water for more than a few days, mosquitoes can grow and infect you.

Ted Simons:
Staying away from mosquitoes?

Karen Lewis:
Exactly, they like to bite from dawn to dust. If you are going outside, wear mosquito repellant and long pants.

Ted Simons:
As far as swine flu and the flu season is concerned, it's going to be a tough one, isn't it?

Karen Lewis:
It's tough. Listen to public health. Get your shots and wash your hands and stay away from sick people and stay home if you're sick.

Ted Simons:
Thank you for joining us, we appreciate it.

Karen Lewis:
Thank you.

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