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Emergency planners discuss H1N1 virus preparations

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Discussion of training courses and a vaccine for the H1N1 virus were the highlights of the Aug. 20 Local Emergency Planning District (LEPD) meeting.

According to David Compton, director of Barry County Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Purdy and Halltown fire departments had requested that the LEPD provide a hazardous material (haz-mat) class for personnel.

After a significant amount of discussion, LEPD members determined they would only be able to pay for one haz-mat course in Lawrence County and one in Barry County due to budget cuts from the state level. Additional courses will be offered at 50 percent of the total cost.

"We've never had a request for training that we could not fulfill," said Compton. "If we can get funding elsewhere, such as from the state, we will be able to offer more classes in each county."

In an effort to get the course into each fire department in Barry and Lawrence County, Compton said he will continue his efforts to locate additional funding.

In other business, Compton informed committee members that an H1N1 vaccine is currently being tested on subjects in the Kansas City area.

According to Compton, there have not been any reports of harmful side effects as a result of the vaccine. Additionally, Compton said children and young adults will be the targets of the H1N1 vaccine, not seniors.

"If a person has the type A influenza in August and are still ill in September, they will automatically receive the vaccination," Compton said. "There are three stages to the H1N1 virus, "We have already been through the first stage."

"During the second stage we anticipate a significant spike in H1N1 cases," Compton explained. "The second phase is expected to cause a trickle effect, which will most likely start with school closings. If a school has to close, it is likely a family member will have to stay home to care for the child thus causing employers to be without employees. The third and final stage is expected to have a lesser impact and a decrease in positive tested cases."

According to Compton, approximately 400 people have died nationwide from the H1N1 virus compared to approximately 33,000 people who have died from the most common strain of influenza.

Taking preventive measures such as covering the mouth when coughing and washing hands frequently will be the best defense against strains of influenza. Also, those who are sick are urged to stay home to prevent spreading the virus to others.

The Office of Emergency Management and state health departments are working together on an upcoming anti-flu campaign called "Fight-The-Flu."

In addition, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has recommended that certain groups of the population receive the H1N1 vaccine when it first becomes available.

These key populations include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than six months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of six months and 24 years old and people age 25 to 64 who are considered to be at a higher risk for H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

More information about "Fight-the-Flu" can be found at www.fighttheflu.org.

LEPD officers elected to serve a two-year term are Charlie Garrison, chairperson, Mike Rowe, vice chairperson, and David Compton, secretary.

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