By TARYN FITSIK
GLOVERSVILLE -- The H1N1 flu vaccine could be available as early as next week for pregnant women, children, and healthcare workers, but for many, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.
Nathan Littauer Hospital in Gloversville is putting together a number of educational programs, educating the community it serves, hoping to ward off a widespread panic.
"It's absolutely comforting to know that they are on the cusp of everything that is going on," says Denise Walsh, who has been a patient at the hospital for 33 years.
Walsh says while there is a lot of information circulating about the H1N1 virus and vaccine, it's often difficult to find and make sense of it all. She says Littauer Hospital wants to change that.
"They have been getting the message to the public, which is what we need to hear," says Walsh.
The hospital is offering two upcoming information sessions on the H1N1 vaccine, as well as a 24 hour hotline, with the most up to date information from the Department of Health.
"The purpose of creating this is eliminating people from having to do an internet search and getting information that is unsubstantiated," says Dr. Todd Duthaler, the Chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Littauer Hospital.
Dr. Duthaler says as soon as a person enters the hospital with flu-like symptoms, he or she will be required to put on a mask.
He says while it's important to take pre-cautions, there is also no need to panic.
"We need to educate the community that this really isn't anything that we need to be scared of," says Dr. Duthaler. "It generally has been a mild illness."
So far, two-thirds of the hospital's employees have been vaccinated against the seasonal flu, and they plan to do the same once the H1N1 vaccine is available. So far, no one has protested taking the shots.
"With the information we have, I believe it's safe," says Walsh. "We should do everything we can to protect ourselves and to protect the spread. It is critical for our population and our community."
A spokesperson for Littauer Hospital says dealing with an influx of patients whether from illness or disaster is part of its practice drills, and the swine flu would be dealt with in the same way.
The most recent summary from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows the swine flu is widespread in 26 states, but not the northeast.