Officials: Emergency pandemic plans in place

By Casey Peacock: PNT staff writer

Local health officials have finalized emergency plans for dealing with a potentially devastating flu pandemic in the future and are now working to get that information in the hands of residents, business owners and public institutions.

Information packets have been released by the Roosevelt County Local Emergency Planning Council (LEPC) and the Roosevelt County Health Council (RCH), to local businesses, offering advice and guidelines, in the event Roosevelt County becomes affected by a pandemic flu outbreak.

“Yes, there is a possibility (of a pandemic). It could be widespread quickly,” said Chuck Haman, Emergency Management Coordinator.

A pandemic could result from an outbreak of avian flu, more commonly known as the bird flu. Officials are not sure when this could occur, but are anticipating it to spread to the United States from Asia and Middle Eastern countries, said Haman.

“There is a strong possibility, sometime in the foreseeable future, the avian flu could make it’s rounds around the world,” said Terry Teti, Roosevelt County Health Council coordinator.

According to Teti, officials are anticipating that the pandemic will occur in three to four waves. The first wave to hit is expected to produce the most fatalities, she said.
“Everybody is absolutely expecting it to hit,” said Teti.

All area business are being encouraged to put into place a backup plan, in the event of a pandemic. During a pandemic, all area schools will be closed, which will help to prevent the spread of the illness. Once the pandemic hits, a majority of the care given to those affected will be in the home, said Teti.

Information provided in the packets include how to prepare for and care for sick individuals, what items to have on site, and how to maintain sanitation, to help avoid the spread of the illness. The packet also provides information on how to receive information in the event of a pandemic outbreak. Much of the information provided in the packets is essential in dealing with the common outbreaks of influenza, said Teti.

“There is really critical information in the packets,” said Teti.

In the event of a pandemic outbreak, satellite sites will be set up to deal with those who are affected by the illness. This will allow area hospitals to remain open to care for other illnesses and injuries, said Teti.

Area residents are encouraged to prepare for a pandemic outbreak. In the event that it happens, it could be three days before help can be received. Chances are it could take closer to five to seven days for help to reach the rural areas, said Teti.

“We are encouraging people to have a minimum of a three-day supply of food, water, and medication for each family member,” said Teti.

Community-wide town hall meetings are being planned and will be held sometime in the future to inform citizens of the ongoing situation, said Teti.

At a glance
Steps to help prevent the spread of influenza, both common and pandemic.

Wash your hands often

• Before, during and after you prepare food

• Before you eat

• After using the restroom

• After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose

• When your hands are dirty

• More frequently when someone in your home is sick

• After touching commonly used items.

By frequently washing your hands, you are able to wash away germs, viruses, or bacteria that have been picked up from other people, contaminated surfaces, or animals and animal waste.

Source: Self Care Fact Sheet New Mexico Department of Health