Wednesday, September 16, 2009

County leaders to discuss H1N1 flu

Awareness and hygiene touted as best prevention


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

The Blaine County Commission, South Central Public Health District, members of the Blaine County School District and Blaine County emergency services representatives will meet Thursday to share information on the H1N1 influenza and possible plans in case of an outbreak.

Blaine County Commission Chairman Larry Schoen said the closed meeting would serve to provide information and bring all the different parties up to speed on the current situation of H1N1 as flu season approaches.

County School District Safety Director Scott Manning has already reported that the flu is a threat, but that currently there are no plans to vaccinate unless the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends to do so.

A vaccine is not yet available, but is expected to be ready this fall.

Manning also said school closures are a possibility, depending upon the extent of an outbreak and recommendations from public health officials.

Blaine County Disaster Services Coordinator Chuck Turner said that with school in session, personal protection and hygiene are the best defense at this point.

"People should be aware and take precautions, such as keeping kids home from school if they are sick, washing hands carefully and practicing good hygiene," Turner said. "It's all really what we should be doing anyway."

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Turner also said that businesses, both large and small, should prepare emergency plans in the case that significant numbers of employees are absent from work because of the flu.

"This meeting will just help the county become the dispersing agent for information," Turner said. "We're not mobilizing everyone and putting on safety gear."

H1N1 virus is already in Blaine County. As of Aug. 27, the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported seven cases of swine flu here. The department reported 350 confirmed cases of swine flu in Idaho, but so far no deaths.

Nationally, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is forecasting that nearly half the U.S. population could be infected this flu season, resulting in 30,000 to 90,000 deaths.

Swine flu symptoms—fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and possible diarrhea and vomiting—are about the same as those of any other flu contagion.

Most at risk of complications from the H1N1 flu are children, young adults and pregnant women, unlike most flu viruses that most strongly affect the elderly.

More information on the H1N1 flu can be found at www.flu.gov.

Jon Duval: jduval@mtexpress.com




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