<!--subtitle--><!--byline-->For the Headlight
<!--date-->Posted: 03/25/2010 12:00:00 AM MDT
For the Headlight
SANTA FE - New Mexico Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil, MD, congratulated Department of Health staff and community partners for working diligently to protect people from H1N1 influenza and track the prevalence of the disease in New Mexico. For the last several weeks, providers and laboratories have reported low levels of H1N1 flu and no influenza B activity in the state.
"Since we first learned of a new flu strain circulating in April 2009, our staff devoted significant time and resources to ensure that we knew what was happening with H1N1 in New Mexico, and people were getting the vaccine and anti-virals they needed to be healthy," Dr. Vigil said. "We successfully put together a comprehensive response to a pandemic influenza that had incredible implications for the entire state. We couldn't have done it all without the help we received from public agencies and local community partners."
Public health staff coordinated with local and community partners throughout the state to hold special vaccination clinics that would make it easier for New Mexicans to protect themselves from H1N1. Staff from several bureaus within the Epidemiology and Response Division tracked flu hospitalizations statewide for the first time, enhanced tracking of deaths due to H1N1, distributed antivirals and personal protective equipment, issued several health alerts to physicians and emergency personnel, tracked hospital bed availability, and conducted specialized statewide surveys.
The H1N1 influenza season peaked in mid-October, when 25 percent of people going to physicians were reporting influenza-like symptoms. "That is the highest we have seen since we started tracking influenza-like illness in New Mexico in 1991," said State Epidemiologist C. Mack Sewell, PhD.
"Many more people got sick with H1N1 this year because it was a new virus. However, the H1N1 season was fairly mild compared to past pandemics."
Based on telephone surveys, the Department estimates that a quarter of New Mexicans or 520,000 had received H1N1 vaccine through January.
The survey also found that almost 19 percent of 5- to 17-year-olds had received the vaccine. To date, the Department's Immunization Registry has records of H1N1 vaccines for about one-third of children birth to 5. All providers do not use the Immunization Registry.