Vaccinations against the swine flu will be available by late October and health officials predict an upswing in cases as school sessions begin, it was announced Wednesday.
Since the H1N1 virus, commonly known as swine flu, first surfaced in Los Angeles county, 157 people have been hospitalized and 25 have died from it, said Dr. Jonathan Fielding, the county's director of public health.
Nearly everyone who died suffered from underlying medical problems, Fielding said.
The swine flu vaccine will require two shots over a three-week period, Fielding said. He also urged doctors and health agencies to contact the health department to sign up as distributors of the vaccine.
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Fielding said schools would likely not be primary distribution locations.
"We would expect some increase (in cases of the virus) starting when school starts," Fielding said.
Vaccines for normal seasonal flu will become available within the next month, the doctor said.
Groups of people especially sensitive to the swine flu virus include pregnant women, those under the age of 24 and health care workers, Fielding said Wednesday.
Fielding advised members of that group -- which he said represented about half the population of the county -- to get vaccinated.
"The best way to prevent flu is to be immunized," he said.
Fielding said seniors are typically less susceptible to the swine flu virus, due to various immunities built up over the years, Fielding said.
The doctor said that, while it was not possible to predict how widespread the virus may become, "it is roughly no more severe at this point as seasonal flu (is) in terms of overall impact."
Fielding also urged members of the public to stay home from work or school if they have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue.
To avoid getting or spreading the bug, he suggested keeping clean hands, covering your mouth when you cough and avoiding close contact with those known to be infected.
Federal officials Wednesday called on businesses to help manage swine flu this fall by encouraging vulnerable employees to get vaccinated and urging employees with flu symptoms to stay home.
Unlike a seasonal flu, the swine flu has not lessened during the summer months. More than 1 million Americans have been infected so far, health officials said.