Thanks to DemFromCT, we've had a great source of H1N1 information here on dKos. One would think that local health departments would be the local clearinghouses for H1N1 information. In our case, one would be wrong.
I've nagged. I e-mailed the head of our health department - no reply. I wrote a column for the paper; the short version will be published today. The paper did a story about the H1N1 flu, and I suspect that my whining contributed to that. Our health department finally got off their butts and put up a single graphic and a whopping 3 links (to the CDC, to flu.gov, and one swiped entirely from the State).
Below the fold is the long version. Please swipe my column and send it as a Letter to the Editor to your local newspaper. It should be 250 words or less, so take out your butcher knives and chop away. Try to leave in the important stuff, the whats and the whys, OK? GET THE INFORMATION OUT THERE!
I've noticed that although the H1N1 flu virus (swine flu) has been known since late March 2009, and was declared to be a pandemic problem months ago (June 2009), the Clark County Health Department didn't have even a single word about it anywhere on their web site. The time to prepare for the H1N1 flu is now, not a few months from now. There have already been cases of the H1N1 flu in schools in 4 Kentucky counties, one of them in Bourbon county, just a few miles away. This is not the regular seasonal flu. The pandemic status of the H1N1 flu does NOT mean that we need to panic and we're going to die. "Pandemic" just means that the problem is worldwide and is not likely to go away. The things people need to do to prepare for the pandemic H1N1 flu are very similar to what people need to do to prepare for the regular flu.
Since our local Health Department has failed to inform the public, I would like to take the opportunity to do so. All of my information comes from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta and their flu preparedness pages (such as http://www.cdc.gov/... Anyone who wants more information can go to the CDC's home page ( http://www.cdc.gov/ ) or to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services flu pages ( http://www.pandemicflu.gov/ ). One very good source of information tells people how people get the flu, and how it is spread ( http://www.pandemicflu.gov/... ). I would like to summarize this information for your readers and the public at large.
First, the most important thing people can do to avoid getting the flu or spreading the flu is wash their hands, frequently, with soap and water. If soap and water is not available, people can and should use an alcohol-based hand cleanser like Purell. This will allow people to keep the flu virus from traveling from their hands to their mouths and noses. It will also help people stop the spread of the H1N1 virus by killing the virus instead of spreading it to the things they touch.
Second, people need to remember to cover their coughs and sneezes. When people with the flu cough or sneeze, they send the virus through the air to land on any available surface or on other people. The best thing for people to do is to carry tissues with them, and throw the tissues away after use. If a tissue isn't handy, people can cover their sneezes and coughs by coughing or sneezing into fabric such as their sleeves. Sneezing or coughing into their hands prevents the virus from traveling through the air, but results in virus-covered hands that will spread the virus to everything the person touches. Sneezing or coughing into a sleeve might result in a yucky sleeve, but the flu virus won't spread anywhere from someone's sleeve.
Third, people who do get sick with the flu should stay home for 24 hours after the fever goes away. This may be difficult, since children with the flu need to be cared for and adults with the flu need to earn a living. However, if children or adults with the flu stay home when they're sick, they will not spread the flu to others.
Fourth, people should get both the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 vaccine when they become available. This will keep people from getting the flu, and people who don't get the flu won't be spreading it to other people.
Fifth, the CDC says that people who have been sick should wipe down surfaces such as tables, doorknobs, kitchen counters, children's play areas, and bathroom surfaces and fixtures in their homes or workplaces with a disinfectant. Remember, though, that this disinfecting isn't permanent! Once someone sneezes, the surface is contaminated again and needs to be wiped down again.
In a pandemic, there may be many people sick, and people may not be able to get up to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy. There are some things that people can do to prepare for a pandemic that they might not usually do. A very good list of these things can be found online at http://www.flu.gov/... People should stock up on foods that won't go bad, such as dry cereal, ready-to-eat canned foods, and drinking water. If people take medicines, they should try to keep a supply of medicine ready at home, but it would be a good idea to keep some aspirin at home, too. People with babies should keep some extra formula in the house. People with pets should keep some extra pet food on hand. It's also a good idea to keep some soap, tissues, batteries, a radio, and a flashlight handy in case a tree falls on a line nearby and a lot of electric company employees are sick. If someone is unable to go to the store, that person will need some handy supplies that can be used until health returns. People don't have to spend a lot of money all at once. For example, they can buy an extra jug of water and a can of beans every time they go to the store.
Businesses, schools, community, church, and other organizations can find good information about what they can do to prevent the spread of the flu by reading the "Planning Checklists" page ( http://www.pandemicflu.gov/... ) on the DHHS's flu web site. Every business or group in Clark County can contribute to keeping the flu virus away by following the DHHS suggestions.
The H1N1 pandemic is not something to be terrified of. It is, however, something to prepare for - now.
- Look up the web page of your local health department.
- Grab this column, or grab the short version.
- Chop it down to an appropriate length.
- Send it as a Letter to the Editor.
Please GET THIS INFORMATION OUT to the people around you. The health and possibly the lives of you and everyone in your community may depend on it.
Thank you. And of course, thanks again to DemFromCT for making sure we became aware of the problem.