OLYMPIA – Thurston County officials have added extensive information to the county's web site regarding preparations for a potential Pandemic Flu outbreak. The information includes prevention measures, causes, impacts and responses to a possible outbreak of a new strain of flu that could have a huge impact worldwide.
Health officials across the world have been tracking an outbreak of avian flu that has been impacting wild and domesticated birds and has spread from birds to humans in about 200 cases. Of those human cases about 50 percent of the victims died. So far, the avian flu has not mutated so it can spread quickly from human to human. It is that potential, a pandemic (worldwide, new virus) flu outbreak, that has health agencies concerned. Sherri McDonald, director of Thurston County Public Health and Social Services, says even though there is no outbreak right now, its prudent to prepare. "We have no indication that the current bird flu outbreak will ever evolve into a serious human illness, however, it makes sense to prepare as if it will, so we can react more quickly and efficiently if it does." McDonald says such preparations have other benefits as well. "Whenever we get ready for such emergencies, we try to maximize the training so it will translate into preparedness for other similar situations."
McDonald says local government leaders in Thurston County , as well as business owners and residents should take time to prepare for the potential of a Pandemic Flu outbreak. "If the pandemic comes, we could have 40 percent of the population at home due to illness and other related issues. Attendance at public venues may be curtailed and we could be forced to use quarantine and isolation to curb the spread of the illness. Families, businesses and individuals should have a plan in place to account for the impacts and they should be prepared to take care of themselves for several weeks if necessary."
There are a few simple measures that everyone can begin to practice now that will help to prevent spread of many diseases such as flu. These include washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before preparing food, cover your cough every time with your arm, and stay home if you are sick so you don't spread germs to others.
The new pages on the Thurston County web site contain a lot of information including-
- An explanation of Pandemic Flu and what it is.
- An examination of the potential impacts of an outbreak.
- Practical ways that citizens can get prepared and what they might be expected to do during an outbreak.
- Checklists for businesses and schools to help with preparations.
- Links to state and national resources on Pandemic Flu.
People can access the Pandemic Flu information on the Thurston County web page at
http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/Influenza/Pandemic.html or by simply visiting the Thurston County web page and clicking on the link on the opening page.