Given the demographics and highly contagious nature of swine flu, it would be natural to think that when the county Department of Public Health begins vaccinations Friday, its efforts would be concentrated in the public schools, likely to be the most common incubators of the disease and a daily gathering spot for the most vulnerable population. Instead, the clinics will be held just about anywhere but schools: at community centers, parks and the like.
These are traditional and valid locations for vaccination efforts. They're just not the ideal places for protecting the public against this particular flu. New York City is offering free swine flu vaccinations at all of its elementary schools, public and private. In November, Berkeley will hold free vaccination clinics at every public school. San Francisco is setting up its inoculation clinics close to the schools.
Swine flu is no more lethal, generally speaking, than the average seasonal flu. Yet its dangers should not be underestimated. Because the H1N1 virus spreads with extreme ease, even if the percentage of patients who die or suffer serious complications is the same as with the usual flu, the number of deaths will be higher.
Swine flu also seems to strike hardest at a different group of people: children and young adults ages 5 to 24. Seasonal flu is especially dangerous to people 65 and older, but senior citizens appear to have some level of immunity to swine flu. Experts at the Centers for Disease Control suspect this group might have gained partial resistance by being exposed to previous, though different, swine flu epidemics.