Friday, May 22–County Changes Stance, Opts To Buy Flu Meds

SNOW HILL – Worcester County will buy flu medication through the state of Maryland this year, a reversal of a decision made one year ago to forego the purchase.

The situation is now different, reported Worcester County Health Officer Debbie Goeller Tuesday morning.

“The circumstances have changed and changed dramatically,” said Goeller. “We do now have an outbreak of a novel virus.”

The swine flu virus, also known as the H1N1 virus, can be transmitted from person to person and is vulnerable to Tamiflu and Relenza flu medications, key factors in the reversal of Goeller’s recommendation last year against purchase.

The Worcester County Commissioners declined to purchase anti-viral influenza medications last year because the seasonal flu is becoming resistant to anti-viral medication.

The commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to purchase 1,016 doses of anti-viral medication through the Maryland Anti-viral Purchase Partnership Program, which will cover 254 vital county and town of Ocean City employees and family members.

“This is for your critical infrastructure essential staff,” said Goeller.

The county stockpile would reduce the number of anti-viral medication regimens to be bought in the event of a local outbreak, Goeller said. The stockpile medications would also cost less than retail medications, at around $15 a regimen. The anti-viral stockpile purchase would cost about $11,000.

The health department has already identified a secure room to hold the stockpile, which will have a shelf life of seven years.

The medications will be used for treatment only, not prevention, under state usage rules for the medications.

While the anti-virals could be used against other flu strains in the case of an outbreak, some of those viruses are not vulnerable to these medications.

“The viruses are just so impossible to predict,” said Goeller.

Worcester County has not seen any swine flu cases since the H1N1 outbreak was identified this spring.

The swine flu virus could mutate over the summer and come back stronger in the fall, said Commissioner Linda Busick.

“Past viruses have done that,” Goeller said.

“I think it’s really important we proceed,” said Busick.