Lake County prepared for flu pandemicDespite some unique challenges, the Lake County Emergency Preparedness Group has established a plan to respond to the possibility of a H1N1 (Swine) flu pandemic.
By: Holly Henry and Greg Hull, Lake County News Chronicle
Despite some unique challenges, the Lake County Emergency Preparedness Group has established a plan to respond to the possibility of a H1N1 (Swine) flu pandemic.
The group, made up of the Lake County Emergency Management Coordinator and Lake County Human Services Department met recently with a variety of county departments, as well as area townships and Emergency Services volunteers to establish a plan of action.
According to Lake County Emergency Management Coordinator, BJ Kohlstedt, the plan includes the establishment of public information phone lines to answer questions, flu centers to efficiently provide vaccinations, staging of resources to make them available in the most timely manner, and coordination with other agencies to provide for uninterrupted continuation of the services.
But Lake County has some unique challenges to deal with as well, the group determined. One is how to communicate with a population spread over a large area. Some of these residents do not have coverage by a local radio or TV station. Some of the other methods used in other areas, such as mass text messaging to cell phones, or a reverse 911 call system, are not options for all Lake County residents either. The group discussed local informational phone lines that people could call, the staging of resources, and the establishment of a “flu center” at a large public location.
With the H1N1 flu virus being labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization, public and governmental agencies are being urged to put together an emergency plan which will address how they will deal with up to 33 percent of the population becoming ill, and another large percentage of the population scared of becoming ill.
A pandemic flu is different than the typical seasonal flu, because it is caused by a virus that people have not been previously exposed to. As a result it tends to be more severe, widespread and deadly than the typical flu strains.
While efforts are underway to produce a flu vaccine that will deal with the H1N1 flu, at the current rate of production, the amount of vaccine that will be available could fall short of what would be needed to give everyone the shot they would need.
The good news is that residents can begin preparing for a possible outbreak now, according to Kohlstedt.
“Good hand washing, proper disinfection, staying home when ill, and maintaining a distance from those who feel ill are good practices for all of us every day,” Kohlstedt said. Keep hand cleanser handy, and have everyone wash their hands frequently. Keep an adequate supply of pain-relievers, and over-the-counter medications and have enough food and water on hand, so that people can stay home for three or four days. If you or a family member begins to feel ill, or have flu-like symptoms, above all, stay home.
Two additional deaths associated with the H1N1 novel influenza virus were reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) this week.
That brings to three the total number of deaths in the state linked to the ongoing H1N1 outbreak.
The two latest deaths were reported in an elderly individual and a child, both from the Twin Cities area. The elderly patient had underlying medical problems and had been hospitalized. The child had an extensive bacterial infection, in addition to being infected with the H1N1 virus. An earlier death, in a Twin Cities area child who also had underlying medical problems, was reported on June 15.
MDH officials emphasized that the two additional deaths do not signal any change in the severity of the illness caused by the H1N1 virus. However, Minnesotans should assume that the virus is still circulating in the state, and they should be diligent about taking simple precautions to avoid getting or spreading the illness.
Standard prevention recommendations can be found on the Web at www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/flu/h1n1/basics/prevent.html.