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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > From the Director: It’s October. Know About the Flu

From the Director: It’s October. Know About the Flu

 

October 19, 2009

 

Last spring, a new flu virus was identified and quickly spread around the globe. Maine, along with the rest of the nation and the world, soon had confirmed cases of the “swine flu”, now known as “H1N1”.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (MaineCDC), led by Dr. Dora Anne Mills, is leading the state’s actions to track the virus and mitigate its effects. The MaineCDC is also working with the health care community statewide on patient care and vaccination strategies. MEMA, the Department of Education and all other state agencies are committed to supporting MaineCDC.

Now that an H1N1 vaccine has been developed, a great deal of activity is going on at the County EMA level. County Directors are working along with regional vaccine coordinators and the three Regional Resource Centers to plan vaccine clinics around the state, organize volunteers and put plans in place for all the non-medical logistical elements of large-scale vaccine clinics. This epidemic has been one of the most demanding tasks taken on by County EMAs in recent years, and they have risen to the challenge.

MEMA also is working with the Governor’s Office, Maine EMS and Maine CDC to ensure that appropriately trained and licensed EMS and Health Care providers who volunteer their services to give vaccines at public clinics are covered by State liability protection and workers compensation programs. Lists of these volunteers are publicly available on the MEMA web site.

This virus will be with us for some time to come. But there are things we can all do to minimize its effect and meet this challenge.

Everyone:

Take steps to protect yourself and others from the flu:

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve.
  • Wash your hands frequently, or use a hand sanitizer.
  • Stay home if you are ill with a fever.
  • Consider getting both seasonal (regular) flu and H1N1 shots this year.

Public officials:

  • Review your Continuity of Operations plan. How will you keep local services going if a large percentage of your employees are ill? Excellent guidance is available from the US CDC or contact your local or County EMA Director.
  • Work with your local and County EMA Director on planning for vaccine clinics, and contingency plans if the epidemic worsens.
  • Ensure that your employees have the best possible information for themselves, as well as for their families and friends.

Business owners:

  • Review your business continuity plan, especially provisions for pandemic flu. If you don’t have a plan, make one! There is plenty of excellent guidance available from the US CDC.
  • Help your employees stay informed by posting up-to-date flu information.
  • Place bottles of hand sanitizer in common areas for staff and customers.
  • Work with your employees on flexible work schedules to accommodate those whose children may be home from school, or who have a family member who is ill.
  • Consider holding a flu vaccine clinic at your location, either for your employees or the general public if you have a site that would be appropriate.

Individuals:

  • Find out the plans and policies at your workplace. Can you work at home if you are ill or caring for a family member? Might your workplace shut down if too many employees are sick?
  • If you are a parent, find out what your children’s school is doing to combat the flu. Most schools have a plan for widespread illnesses, that dictate if and when they might close. Find out if your school will be hosting a vaccine clinic.
  • Learn about vaccines for yourself, your children and all your extended family members. Medical experts, including Dr. Mills here in Maine, strongly recommend vaccination for all, but especially for high-risk individuals. Learn all you can, and make the right choice for you.

We are learning more about H1N1 every day. Information will change, and advice will change. It’s critically important to keep up with those changes, so stay informed! Here are some ways to do that.

  • Visit MaineFlu.gov at least once a week. A summary of the most recent information is posted every Thursday mornings. There is a lot of information here – focus in on those types of information that are most important for you. You can also sign up for automatic updates of critical information.
  • Be part of the planning in your area. Contact your County EMA Director to see how you can contribute.
  • Find a public vaccine clinic in your area.
  • Check the MaineCDC Frequently Asked Questions which may contain answers you need.
  • Call the Maine CDC (Hours of operation: Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm ):
    • General Public Call-in Number: 1-888-257-0990
    • NextTalk (deaf/hard of hearing): (207)629-5751
  • Ask Maine CDC your H1N1-related question by e-mail at flu.questions@maine.gov.

I began in September offering a monthly message here on the MEMA and Maine Prepares web sites to take a look together at some specific challenges facing Maine, and how Maine Prepares. I believe the preparedness steps we take to deal with H1N1, and the relationships we are strengthening through this process, will stand us in good stead for the months and even years to come.

Please, contact me, and let me know your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Rob McAleer, Director, Maine Emergency Management Agency

 

 

Last update: 07/20/10