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Overlake Hospital to provide free swine flu vaccinations to pregnant women | Hospital will also offer free seasonal flu shots at one-day clinic in late October

As the first shipments of a vaccine against the H1N1 flu (swine flu) virus are expected to arrive in Washington state this week or next, Overlake Hospital Medical Center plans to immunize the highest risk group – pregnant women - for free, while urging people to get their seasonal flu immunization as well.

“Overlake’s first priority is the safety and well-being of our patients,” said Richard Bryan, Overlake Hospital’s Vice President of Quality and Patient Safety. “And we now know that pregnant women are among those at highest risk for contracting the H1N1 virus or swine flu, as it’s called. By receiving the vaccine, they protect themselves and their unborn child.”

Overlake is introducing a new program to provide free H1N1 immunizations for pregnant women who are giving birth at Overlake. This program is offered to all pregnant women who have an Overlake-affiliated physician and plan to deliver at the Overlake Childbirth Center. They should be pre-registered for their births at Overlake and they’ll be contacted by the hospital so their immunization appointment can be scheduled.

The H1N1 immunizations will arrive in two different forms: traditional shots and a new nasal spray.

“The first vaccines slated to arrive in Washington state will be in the form of a nasal spray, which is made from a live strain,” said Bryan. “This live strain is unfortunately not recommended for some of the individuals who are most at risk of getting severely ill from the flu, primarily pregnant women, children younger than two, adults over age 49 and people with asthma or other respiratory diseases.”

Once the H1N1 vaccine shot is available – in mid to late October – the program to immunize pregnant women will get under way. Overlake is also taking steps to educate new mothers about what they should do protect themselves and their babies.

“The H1N1 vaccine does not protect against the seasonal flu, so it is important to get vaccinated for the seasonal flu as well,” Bryan said. “There are a number of ways people can get immunized including through their primary care physician or at most neighborhood pharmacies and clinics.”

Overlake is sponsoring a one-day seasonal flu shot clinic in which people can get a free flu shot in exchange for a donation to the local food bank. This one-day event will be held in the Community Education classroom in the new Overlake Medical Center Issaquah on Oct. 24 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. or as long as supplies last. Overlake Medical Center Issaquah is located at 5708 E. Lake Sammamish Parkway SE in Issaquah.

In addition, Overlake will also be giving free seasonal flu shots to the first 500 seniors who attend the “Home is Where the Heart Is” fair on Oct. 17 in Bellevue.

Seasonal flu immunizations also will be available at Overlake Medical Center Issaquah’s primary care clinic and urgent care clinics, at Overlake’s primary care clinic on the Bellevue Overlake campus, and at its Senior Care clinics in Bellevue and Mercer Island.

Once the H1N1 vaccine is available, individuals in high-risk groups will be given priority for vaccination including:

• Pregnant women.

• Children and young adults, from six months to 24 years old.

• Adults aged 25 to 64 with chronic diseases or compromised immune systems.

• Household members and caregivers of children younger than six months.

• Healthcare workers and emergency medical service providers.

In addition to vaccinations, there are daily preventive actions everyone should take including:

• Wash your hands frequently throughout the day with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.

• While sick, limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

Additional information about the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus can be found at www.overlakehospital.org as well as the King County Public Health Department’s and the CDC’s Web sites.

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