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Firefighters score swine flu protection

Firefighters are often on the front lines during flu season. This year, they will be getting a little extra protection.

South King Fire and Rescue firefighters will be receiving flu kits this fall to help against the spread of H1N1, also known as swine flu. The kits contain protective eyewear, masks, gloves and thermometers.

"The kits will be distributed to central personnel," South King Fire and Rescue spokeswoman Kirsti Weaver said. "The thought was in the event of the flu season getting really bad, we wanted our personnel to be able to respond and to keep themselves and their families healthy. These kits are designed to do that."

The kits are being purchased by the King County Fire District 26 Aid Fund. The group has been around since the 1970s, when the district was just the Des Moines area. Since Des Moines and SKFR merged, the aid fund has covered all firefighters in the district.

Key Club members from the local high schools will be assembling the kits for the firefighters.

The fund was originally used to purchase aid supplies for the department, Weaver said. However, for many years now, the department has purchased its own aid supplies. The aid fund now helps purchase other aid-related costs for the department coverage area, including automated external defibrillators (AEDs).

The aid agency is run by a small board of Des Moines community members and operates on donations.

Firefighters are also offered the typical flu vaccination each year. They will also be receiving the vaccine for H1N1.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, from April 15 to July 24, states reported a total of 43,771 confirmed and probable cases of novel influenza A (H1N1) infection. Of these cases reported, 5,011 people were hospitalized and 302 people died. On July 24, 2009, confirmed and probable case counts were discontinued.

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