H1N1 virus now a ‘Pandemic’: health officials urge caution, prevention

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With Southeastern Indiana suffering its second death to the H1N1 virus in the past month, county and state health officials are continuing to urge caution and preach prevention as a way of heading off the virus.

Chris See, Health and Safety Coordinator for Switzerland County, attended a meeting of state and county health officials on Monday in French Lick, and returned to Switzerland County convinced that residents here are doing the right things to head off the virus.

Now everyone needs to keep doing it.

“Again, and I can’t say it enough,” Chris See said. “We need to tell people that the best way to prevent this is to wash their hands and have good general hygiene.”

Chris See said that the H1N1 virus was officially classified as a “Pandemic” on June 11th by the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization; and that he was told on that pandemics can have levels – just like hurricanes – but right now it holds the basic classification.

“We were told that if this gets out of hand, as many as two million people could die in the country,” Chris See said.

That figure hit home earlier this week when Mindy McIntosh of Dillsboro died from the virus. Her death comes just 22 days after her brother, Matt, also passed away from the disease.

Locally, last month Camp Livingston was closed down for five days when some campers from out of town tested positive for the illness; but the camp was thoroughly cleaned to insure the virus was not on fixtures and other items, then reopened.

“We’re not aware of any other confirmed cases here in Switzerland County since June,” Chris See said. “But everything that’s going on around us needs to be a reminder that the H1N1 virus is real and is affecting our local population.”

At Monday’s meeting, Chris See said that State Health Commissioner Dr. Judith Moore outlined for the county representatives information from the state as to how the state organization was handling incoming reports of confirmed cases – and how the state will respond if the virus continues to build here.

“They talked to us about the overall gameplan as to how the state is going to react,” Chris See said. “They are also interested as to how we’re going to react here in the county. We are in the process of working with local officials to make sure H1N1 is dealt with as thoroughly and quickly as possible.”

Chris See said that since it is currently winter in the Southern Hemisphere, doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization are monitoring what’s going on in the Southern Hemisphere with the H1N1 virus and how it is reacting with people there. It is hoped that observations of winter there will help health officials better control the virus when winter comes to this area of the world.

Chris See said that at Monday’s meeting Dr. Monroe preached what she called the “3 C’s” of battling the H1N1 virus: “Clean, Cover, Control”.

– “Clean” means that everyone should continue the practice of washing their hands, especially before meals; and should also practice good hygiene.

– “Cover” means that everyone should be in the habit of covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze in order to prevent the spread of germs. Also remember to wash your hands after you cover a cough or sneeze.

– “Contain” means that people who feel ill should stay home. Many times people feel sick but try and go to work anyway. With the H1N1 virus in full force, that could lead to the infection of many other people. People who feel sick should stay home and contain their illness from spreading until they feel better.

Also: Chris See reminds people who may be feeling sick to call their doctor or healthcare provider before they go to the office. A few minutes talking with a nurse or the doctor on the phone could help prevent the spread of the virus in waiting rooms.

Another concern for state and county health officials is that schools will be starting up again in the next couple of weeks, meaning that hundreds of children here in Switzerland County will again be in close proximity to each other.

“Parents are our first line of defense,” Chris See said. “They need to reinforce with their kids that they need to be washing their hands a couple of times a day and especially before they eat. We need to make sure that parents help us out and really stress good hygiene with their children.”

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As the H1N1 virus continues to build around the country, Chris See said that anyone having any questions here in Switzerland County may call him at 427-9015.

Chris See said that the Switzerland County Health Department is looking for local healthcare professionals who would be willing to volunteer their time in the event of a public health emergency here in Switzerland County.

“We are looking for RNs, LPNs, CNAs, and other medical personnel,” Chris See said. “If you are interested in helping us, contact me at the Switzerland County Health Department at 427-9015, or email me at see.christopher@yahoo.com.”

He also said that he will continue to provide updates through articles in the Vevay Newspapers; and his office and Vevay Newspapers have partnered together to provide a link in the Vevay Newspapers’ website that will be updated as new information becomes available.

The website address is www.vevaynewspapers.com

Updates will be made daily if needed in order to get information to residents between issues of the regular newspaper, so those with Internet access should check the site on a regular basis.

“We need to get the information out there, so if anything happens, people will know where to go and what to do,” Chris See said.