Representatives from the State of Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Health and the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management facilitated a training workshop for numerous Cordovan citizens on September 8th. The full day workshop was intended to prepare Cordova with regards to disasters in general and specifically, preparation for a possible H1N1 flu outbreak. Attendees were the Mayor and the Public Health nurse, as well as members of Cordova Community Medical Center, Ilanka Clinic, Cordova Family Resource Center, Cordova School District, Cordova Volunteer Fire Department, The Native Village of Eyak, and Orca Adventure Lodge.
First on the agenda was an update of the Alaskan situation with regards to H1N1, including information on the first H1N1 school-aged death in Alaska, a sobering and effective way to start the day. Attendees quietly looked around the room pondering how many in the room had school-aged children.
The H1N1 flu is the primary strain of flu presently circulating throughout Alaska. As many of us know, the normal seasonal flu claims approximately 36,000 deaths each year. That number, due to the H1N1 strain, is expected to increase this year. So, whether we believe that it will be a problem for Cordova, or not, it would be prudent to be prepared. One death would be too many for Cordova.
The challenges are numerous. It is difficult to determine the difference between the regular seasonal flu and the H1N1 flu. It is difficult, for that matter, to tell the difference between flu and the common cold. The vaccine will not be out for many weeks. And school has already begun. How do we keep our children and ourselves safe? Which information is reliable?
We keep ourselves safe by educating ourselves and choosing not to panic. The best precautionary measures to take against the spread of flu are simple. Wash our hands. Cough into our sleeves or a tissue. And prepare to stay home if we are sick. Prepare, today, for the possibility that our sick child may have to stay home from school for some time. Make certain we have someone lined up, ahead of time, to watch that sick child if we cannot do it. Watch our family for signs of fever and illness and do the responsible thing if someone is sick. Let’s be very clear. The responsible thing is to stay home…even when it is inconvenient.
Lastly, educate ourselves. As an employer, do you know when it is appropriate for a sick employee to return to work? As a parent, do you know when your sick child can return to school? The answers to most the questions above, whether you are a family, an employer, a school teacher, or a child caretaker …can be found at www.pandemicflu.alaska.gov. Take the time to find the information that pertains to you. Do it today.
Be prudent. Be ready. Be prepared. And please, wash your hands.