By Amanda Kim Stairrett

Fort Hood Herald

Health care officials at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center typically see 200 people a day in its emergency room.

In the last six weeks it has increased to 240 to 250, mostly because of people with flu-like illnesses, said Col. Steven Braverman, commander of Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.

"In this community, N1H1 is prevalent," he said last week during a meeting with members of the local media.

Officials have seen an increase in people coming in with N1H1, but it's leveling off, he added.

Darnall has one main facility and eight clinic across Fort Hood.

There are 177,000 people who are eligible for care from Darnall in the area, and they are primarily active-duty soldiers and their families, and retirees and their families.

Of the 177,000, about 100,000 are enrolled with Darnall. About half of that 100,000 are active-duty soldiers.

Officials initially tested for N1H1, but do so no longer because it's become a pandemic, Braverman said.

They know a majority of what comes in is likely N1H1.

Officials do test for N1H1 when they get clusters of it in active-duty ranks to prevent it from spreading in large groups of soldiers.

Braverman suggested that those with flu-like symptoms and mild to moderate fever to stay home and take over-the-counter medicine. Wait it out, he said.

Those who are dehydrated and have respiratory problems should seek medical attention.

N1H1 is more contagious than the seasonal flu, and affects the lungs rather than just the upper respiratory system, Braverman said.

Darnall has two kinds of vaccines available: seasonal flu and N1H1. Though the medical center doesn't have all of its seasonal supply yet, officials expected a big delivery of flu vaccine late last week.

There are two distribution channels for N1H1 vaccine, Braverman said.

One comes from military and is only for troops and Department of the Army civilians who provide health care.

The second comes from the state, and is distributed to the civilian population.

Vaccines for these two distribution channels will come at different times, Braverman said.

The first is expected in mid-November and will go to deployed soldiers first and then the rest of the active-duty force.

The second will arrive at Darnall in small amounts this week.

Priority is given to pregnant women, those who provide care for infants and others with underlying medical conditions.

Darnall officials will get in touch with those people and invite them in for the vaccination, Braverman said.

When Darnall gets a larger supply, it will be made available to rest of the population.

The defense secretary has required all soldiers get the vaccine, Braverman said.

Officials recommend anyone younger than 24 get it or anyone at risk for illness.

There was a similar strain in the 1950s and many older folks have been vaccinated for it, the colonel added.

Darnall opened a Flu-Like Clinic on Sept. 28. It's located in Fort Hood's Thomas Moore Clinic and is open from 5 p.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday.

Officials typically see 30 people a day in that clinic.

Darnall officials have seen some who required a stay in the intensive care unit as a result of N1H1, but no deaths, Braverman said.

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