Prepare for swine flu this fall, officials say
People are advised to have a 2 week supply of food, water on hand, plus a month's worth of medications.
By Mary Ann Roser
AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Fall may feel like a long way off as Austin withers in triple-digit heat, but health authorities said Friday that it's not too soon to prepare for the fall flu season and a likely return of the novel swine flu virus.
The H1N1 virus, or swine flu, still is making people sick in Texas and elsewhere. President Barack Obama said Thursday he is concerned about "the potential for a significant outbreak in the fall."
No one knows whether the virus will mutate into a stronger disease, although a vaccine that's in production could prevent widespread illness. Texas is still waiting to hear from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about when it will get the vaccine, and how much, said Emily Palmer, spokeswoman for the Department of State Health Services.
Texas also isn't sure whether the federal government will impose requirements on states for vaccinating people. However, the federal government has said priority should be given to protecting children, health care workers, front-line workers (emergency responders, police and firefighters) and high-risk groups, such as pregnant women. If the vaccine proves to be safe and effective, health authorities said, schoolchildren could get vaccinated starting in October.
Because seasonal flu also will be circulating, people should get a regular flu shot, too, Palmer said.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced Friday that Texas stands to receive $27 million in federal grants to prepare for an emergency response to flu this fall. Of that, nearly $7 million would go to hospitals to help them get ready for a possible surge in patients.
As of Friday, the CDC said there had been 37,246 confirmed and probable cases of swine flu since April and 211 U.S. deaths. Texas reported 4,464 cases and 21 deaths.
Swine flu, believed to be similar to seasonal flu in its severity, closed some schools in the spring and is now shuttering summer camps around the country. It mostly affects younger people, causing scientists to speculate that people older than 50 may have some immunity. Palmer said only 4 percent of Texas cases have been older than 49.
Health authorities advise taking some precautions now, in case there's a fall outbreak. Chief among them is having a two-week supply of water and food on hand and up to a month's worth of medications available.
If flu is widespread this fall, "some people are talking about high absenteeism," said Dr. Pat Crocker, chief of the emergency department at Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin. "If you took away 20 percent of the work force for six weeks, it's going to make a big dent in things."
Crocker and Palmer said people can stock up now on items that have a long shelf life. If the items aren't needed this fall, "you can cycle food through your pantry," Palmer said.
Many reasonably priced, nutritious items are available to frugal families, said Crocker, including beans, rice and flour. He also advises buying peanut butter, canned meats, canned tuna, MREs (Meals Ready to Eat), a daily vitamin like Centrum and water in 2½-gallon jugs.
The state health department's pandemic flu committee soon will offer guidance to schools, high-risk groups and others, Palmer said.
Crocker said being prepared does not mean being alarmed. "I don't want anyone to think there is going to be a collapse of civilization next fall, because I don't think there's going to be," he said. "But there could be a stress on the health care system and the delivery system that we haven't seen before."
Pickdog comment: The bolded part is prudent always as every prepper knows.
But why do I feel like the full court press is on to get us prepared for mass innoculation?
I and my family will not be taking any vaccines ever again.
This is a line in the sand even more firm than 2nd amendment issues.
Folks, get your Vitamin D-3 now. We ordered 12 bottles of 1000IU pills (1200 pills total) for a family of five. That should be about a 2 month supply. It was less than $40.00 including shpping from Puritan's Pride. Going to order another 12 bottles next week.