Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Kansas State Health Officer and Director of Health
Kansas Department of Health and Environment
Last week, an editorial in a Kansas newspaper questioned the changes we at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) made in our H1N1 testing procedures.
The editorial called the changes an “about-face on the perspective of the disease” and concluded that based on the changes that the disease is not as serious as we once thought. The editorial implied that if the virus is presenting a serious threat, health officials should continue to be vigilant in tracking cases and keeping the public informed of its activity, pattern of growth and outcomes for patients.
Although the virus does not usually produce severe disease, its rapid global spread shows that it has adapted remarkably well to humans. And this means that many more people will get sick from it than what we typically see with seasonal flu. And, unfortunately, it also means that we will see more deaths. What is also remarkable about this new virus is who it is affecting the most – young children and adults. This is very different than seasonal flu. So I would agree that it is extremely important for us to track the disease and keep the public informed, and in fact I argue, that in our transitioned methods of testing, we are doing just that.
With the assistance of our public health partners across the state we have built a network of approximately 50 outpatient health care facilities to create an enhanced statewide flu surveillance network. In a typical flu season we have maintained a network of approximately 25 sites, but because of the need for additional surveillance related to H1N1 we’ve created an expanded network of sites. Hospitals throughout the state are also participating in influenza surveillance to help us monitor the impact of this virus.
Each week, those participating in this network submit information to KDHE on the percentage of patients they are seeing with influenza-like illness. They are also submitting a random sampling of specimens for testing in our state laboratory.
What this does is allow us, in an organized and meaningful way, to look at the impact of the disease and what population groups it is affecting the most, as well as the geographic spread. This information will allow us to make the best public health recommendations for the state of Kansas.
This modified procedure for testing isn’t out of the norm, and in fact we have based our decisions on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) which indicates that not all people with suspected cases of the H1N1 virus need to have laboratory confirmation.
It is critical for the public to know that we are still taking this disease very seriously and are working on a daily basis to better understand it and reduce the spread in Kansas.
It’s also critical for Kansans to know that any confirmatory testing done on an individual level would not affect the treatment and advice given to patients by health care providers.
We know that the disease is here in our state and we all must work together to help prevent its spread until the vaccine arrives. This means that people who are experiencing flu-like symptoms should stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids so that they can recover without spreading the virus to others. And we all must continue to practice good hygiene by washing our hands and covering our coughs.
I urge all Kansans to stay informed about H1N1 and please know that we at KDHE continue to take the virus seriously.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Monday, September 14, 2009
KDHE released a letter to Kansas businesses providing guidance and asking for their assistance in limiting the spread of the 2009 H1N1 virus this fall and winter. Recommended actions for businesses will depend upon the severity of disease in coming months. For now, under current flu conditions, the recommendations from KDHE and CDC are:
- Sick employees should stay home. People with symptoms of flu‐like illness should stay home until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever without the aid of fever reducing medications.
- Sick employees at work should be advised to go home. Employees who appear to have flu‐like illness upon arrival, or who become sick during the work day, should be promptly separated from others and sent home. Do not require a doctor’s statement from sick employees, as doctors’ offices and emergency rooms may be overwhelmed. Cases of mild disease do not need to see a doctor, but still should self‐isolate.
- Encourage employees to wash their hands often. Instruct employees to wash their hand often with soap and water or use an alcohol‐based hand cleaner, especially after coughing or sneezing.
- Encourage employees to cover their coughs and sneezes. Communicate the importance of covering coughs and sneezes, and provide tissues and no‐touch wastebaskets.
- Clean surfaces and items that are more likely to have frequent hand contact. Clean surfaces that are frequently touched with cleaning agents that are normally used in these areas. Additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is not recommended.
- Encourage employees to get vaccinated. Encourage employees to get vaccinated for seasonal flu, and suggest that employees at higher risk for flu complications get vaccinated for 2009 H1N1 flu when vaccines are available to them.
- Protect employees who are at higher risk for complications of flu. Employees at higher risk for complications of flu, such as pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and asthma, should check with their health care provider promptly if they become sick.
- Prepare for increased numbers of employee absences due to illness in employees and their family members and plan ways for essential business functions to continue. Cross‐train staff to perform essential functions so that business operations can continue.
- Advise employees before traveling to take certain steps. Advise workers to check for signs of flu‐like illness before traveling, to notify their supervisor, and stay home if they are sick. Tell employees who travel how to seek health care if they become sick enough on the road to require care. If employees become sick during travel, they should stay in their hotel room until their fever has resolved for at least 24 hours without the aid of fever reducing medications, unless they are seeking medical care. Prepare for the possibility of school dismissals or temporary closure of child‐care programs. Allow workers to stay home to
take care of their children if schools are dismissed or child‐care programs are closed. Encourage your employees with children to plan for child‐care alternatives if possible. Employees may need to take care of sick family members also.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
There are many ways to serve emergency preparedness in Johnson County including Community Emergency Response Teams, Medical Reserve Corps, Neighborhood Watch, and Volunteers in Police Service. Later in September, a new website will be released that creates a portal for the general public to reach these volunteer opportunities. Keep your eyes out!
The survey specifically discussed absenteeism policies, cross training, sick leave, and many other human resources and personnel issues.
While Johnson County does not have all the answers, we are willing to sit down with any business or local organization in our community to discuss these challenges and help those groups identify solutions that may help better prepare Johnson County for this type of public challenge.
Friday, September 4, 2009
Guest Blog--Major General Tod BuntingKansas Adjutant General/Kansas Division of Emergency Management Director
August 17, 2009
As the adjutant general and director of Kansas Division of Emergency Management, I often think about worse case scenarios. Some might say I think about this too much, but it’s the best way I know to ensure we do everything possible to be ready for anything nature, a terrorist or both might throw our way on any given day.
Recently, Governor Mark Parkinson asked my agency to walk all of the cabinet leadership through a scenario for a severe flu season with the H1N1 virus, which unfortunately may happen this fall.
The cabinet meeting, held at the Eisenhower Center for Homeland Security Studies here at the Adjutant General’s Department in Topeka, was to ensure everyone in state leadership thoroughly considers the impact of H1N1 on their agency staff and that their critical functions will still be performed, despite a potential reduction of workers.
Our priority is first and foremost to save lives and the best way we can accomplish this is anticipating the challenges ahead. We understand essential services support quality of life, healthy people and healthy communities, so we must do what we can to minimize the impact on those and to restore them once affected.
So, in the cabinet meeting, we posed a worst case scenario with H1N1 impacting state government’s ability to function as a result of sick workers. It forced leadership to think through the ripple effects the virus could have on staffing, especially as schools or daycares close, family members become ill, and/or the state’s health care system has an influx of patients. Our first responders and private industry partners will likely be hit equally as hard, challenged to provide critical supplies like food or emergency response with possibly 40 percent of their staff not available. Who will step in to fill these essential services?
Walking through these worst case situations forced us to consider the tough questions and establish plans for addressing any unresolved issues. It’s certainly not the first time we’ve thought through these items, as the state has been planning for the possibility of pandemic flu for many years, but it was a critical reminder to everyone of what challenges we face as we move closer to what could be a very tough year ahead.
Kansas leadership is committed to doing what it takes to keep the public informed so everyone can make the best decisions for themselves and their families. And we’re committed to doing everything possible to protect the public’s health and save lives.
We know there is a lot of work ahead of us, but we’ve planned for this very thing. Now we ask all Kansans to do the same. Stay informed about H1N1 so you’ll know what actions you and your family must take to protect your health. If you don’t have an emergency kit, with enough water, food and medicines for each member of your family to sustain themselves for several days, now is the time to make one. Think about what would happen to your family, your workplace, your world if you or one of your family were sick or worse, then plan accordingly.
We must all get ready for this great challenge to minimize its impact and that will make us better prepared for all emergencies, not just H1N1.
Maj. Gen. Tod Bunting
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Help us select a winner! It's time for the public to vote for the best video in the HHS Flu Prevention Public Service Announcement (PSA) Contest. The producer of the winning video gets a $2,500 cash award, and the winning PSA will be broadcast on national television!
When HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced our contest asking people to help promote flu prevention, we had no idea what to expect. The response to the contest was amazing! Some 240 video PSAs were uploaded on YouTube!
All videos were reviewed for adherence to message and length criteria.
More than 100 videos qualified for the next step: review by a panel of expert judges. Their review is complete, we are down to the final 10, and now it is your turn to select the best.
Keep in mind as you watch the PSAs that we need to reach as many people as we can. We are entering the fall flu season, and the 2009 H1N1 flu could impact all of us, so getting the message out on how we can best avoid the flu is critical. Think young and old; students and mothers; and those most vulnerable -- then tell us which video delivers the flu prevention message best.
Voting starts on YouTube at 12:01 a.m. Eastern time, Saturday, Aug. 29, and runs through 11:59 p.m. Eastern time, Wednesday, Sept.16.
Information on the contest and how to vote is available at www.flu.gov.
You will find a wide range of seasonal and H1N1 (swine) flu information at www.flu.gov; we suggest you visit it often to get the latest information and guidance for home, school, business, faith-based organizations and so much more. Sign up for regular updates and let us know what your questions are.
Go online and vote; then stay tuned for the results!
Johnson County Emergency Management & Homeland Security would like to thank Eric Matthews for his work and dedication to the mission and purpose of the office. He worked over the last year on a resource management database for the County to create a tool to be used during emergencies or disasters.
Eric receives a certificate of appreciation from Dan Robeson, Assistant Director, in the adjacent picture.
His hard work will be missed by the County! Best of luck, Eric!
Thanks to them for hosting us!
The video can be viewed by clicking here or visiting the Johnson County YouTube Channel or Facebook page.