Education, communication key with H1N1 virus

By PATSY GAINES Milam County Health Director

During the week of Aug. 17, I attended the International Swine Flu Conference in Washington, D.C. It was a very informative conference in regards to all of the public health issues regarding the Swine H1N1 flu.

There were representatives from 37 foreign countries and many U.S. states. This conference was broadcast live on C-Span. Top leaders and key decision-makers of major companies representing

broad range of industries met with distinguished scientists, public health officials, law enforcers, first responders, and other experts to discuss pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

The key words to remember on preventing the spread of this disease are education and communication. There were three main, simple messages conveyed: Cover your cough, Wash your hands, and stay at home when you are sick.

There are knowns and unknowns regarding this disease, but with all officials working together will result in the success of combating this virus. Globally, there are 250,000 to 500,000 estimated seasonal inf luenza deaths per year. Ninety percent of those deaths occur in developing countries.

Knowing that there have always been inf luenza viruses in the world, I never paid much attention to the types or the severity unless it involved us right here at home. In 1918, there was a pandemic outbreak of the H1N1 in which 40-50 million people died worldwide. Then in 1977, the H1N1 virus appeared again, but it was very mild. There were other pandemic influenza viruses in the years of 1957, 1968 and 1977, but these were not the same strain as the 2009 H1N1 virus.

There were 35 speakers with a wide range of knowledge in all aspects of pandemics. There were many breakout sessions dealing with best practices, research and the knowledge of the virus. I attended as many of these sessions as time allowed so that the information brought back would yield a healthier commu- nity locally as well as worldwide through networking.

Nations, communities, and businesses are taking steps to reduce the risk and to prepare an effective, efficient response. Implement i ng t he se ac t ion s requires continuous coordination between countries, international organizations and civil societies, as well as across multiple sectors within countries and local communities.

When there is leadership, you will understand critical responsibilities. When there is innovation, you will be among the first to hear about it. When there is knowhow, you will learn new skills. When there is shared interest, you will share "best practices."

So the challenges that we face together must be met through the 3 C's - Communication, Coordination and Collaboration.

With so much collaboration with the many different entities, countries and people, I really felt there was togetherness of the same goals when it came to keeping our world safe from this deadly disease. I know that there has been much collective information from the media whether it is by newspaper, magazine, radio or television, but we as public health care workers, look at the worst case scenarios and hope for the best through good practices.

We know that sometimes fear is our own worst enemy, but the world as displayed by the attendance at this International Conference saw this as an opportunity to compile and coordinate as much information to give to the people and assist in any way to prevent this deadly disease.

Be aware of any information that may be made available to you and if you should have any questions regarding the H1N1 virus, please feel free to contact the Milam County Health Department at 254-697-7039.

Businesses and H1N1 Health officials anticipate H1N1 will be wide-spread during the upcoming flu season. In response to this, employers should plan to protect their workers and implement strategies to continue operations in the event of a reduction in their work-force.

To encourage businesses to plan for H1N1 flu, the CDC has issued guidance for employers to prepare themselves and their employees for the potential H1N1 outbreak.

Business ow ners may v isit guidance/ to read the recommendations or pick up a CD of the document at their local Chamber of Commerce, Health Department or follow the link at www.milamhealth. com

For questions about seasonal or H1N1 flu please contact, Michelle Ferguson at 254-697-7039 or by email at php_milamco@yahoo. com.

Milam County

Health Department • Local hours—Tues. & Thurs., 9 a.m.-noon & 1-4:30 p.m. • Phone—Rockdale office: 512-446-4026. Cameron office: 254-697-7039. • Web site: www.milamhealth. com.

Provides immunizations, TB tests, a well-child clinic, septic inspections, vision and hearing screenings, blood pressure checks, diabetes screening, STD tests, indigent health care applications, food handlers inspections.

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