Driving County Roads

An on line journal sharing my views. The content reflects my background as a rural person employed in agriculture and as a retired elected official of local government.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Preparing for a Pandemic

Bird flu, SARs, anthrax or smallpox as the result of bioterrorism: these are the issues we read about or hear reported in the media. According to Dr. Michael Osterholm, the issue is not "if we will face a pandemic" it is "when we will face a pandemic". A pandemic is different than an epidemic in that a pandemic disease will affect whole countries or continents. Epidemics affect many people, but they probably are in a contained area of a state or region of the country. The pandemic that most people are familiar with was the influenza outbreak in 1918. Many people died all over the world.
Any of the above mentioned diseases would be a Public Health Disaster and all local public health agencies are charged with preparing a response plan to deal with this threat. The planning taking place now is essential and the plans include education of the public, identification of the resources available, and "practice" events. Public health agencies are also creating a database of volunteers who are willing to help, if an emergency occurs.
The campaign is called "Count Me In". Skills needed will be physical labor, health, construction, food handling, bilingual, computer, education, assembly line, maintenance/repair, phone skills and others. If you are interested, contact Karen Swenson at 934-4140 or go to www.mncountmein.com
Public Health officials can help us all a lot, but the one thing public health cannot do is control or change the attitudes and behaviors of us - the citizens of the county. We (all of us) can make a big difference in attacking this problem by following a few simple steps to prepare ourselves and our families.
1. We need to have a family plan in place. Think about it!!! What would you do in an emergency? What would you do if schools were closed? Stores were closed? Gas stations were not selling fuel? Do you have enough supplies on hand to stay at home for three days, five days, 10 days? That may be what you will have to do if a disaster is declared. The public health folks have given us some guidelines. We need one gallon of water per person per day. Plenty of food that needs little preparation and little or no water. We should have enough medications and personal supplies to get by for a week or two. Also, items like flash lights, tools, personal items, pet supplies, and cash in case ATMs and credit cards won’t work.
2. We can guard against spreading infection and perhaps, bringing an infection into our homes simply by WASHING our hands frequently. Study after study has shown that the most effective way of protecting ourselves ANY TIME is by frequent and thorough washing of our hands. We need to teach our youngsters to do the same. The small amount of time it takes to wash our hands may be the most important minutes we spend in our lives.
3. We can develop a philosophy that we can take care of ourselves. In the case of a pandemic, resources will be stretched to the limit. There will not be enough physicians, hospitals, or clinics to treat all of the sick people. We can learn to care for our own families - because that may be the only care available.
For more information, go to www.ready.gov end


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