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Is the government prepared for an H1N1 flu pandemic?

From the Editor's Notebook

August 3, 2009
by Chuck Hunt, Register Editor
Just listening to Blue Earth Chamber Executive Director Shelly Greimann’s story about her granddaughter’s battle against the Novel H1N1 virus brought shivers and tears.

It has been quite an ordeal for the family, which you can read about in a story in this week’s Register.

Shelly brought up a very good point during our conversation. It had to do with being unprepared for coping with the H1N1 virus.

I count myself among the woefully uninformed.

Sure, I have heard about it, and read about it. I know it came from Mexico, and that it is being called a pandemic.

A pandemic just means it spreads quickly, and could affect the entire world’s population. It doesn’t have to do with how serious it is – or how deadly.

But the media hype of this mis-named and so-called ‘swine flu’ has fallen by the wayside, and the TV networks are on to bigger stories – like the death of Michael Jackson. I doubt he died from the Novel H1N1 virus, but think of the hype if he would have.

Yes, I also know people have died from the virus. But how serious is it, anyway? I wasn’t lying awake at night worrying about it.

But if a family in Wisconsin can all come down with it, and one of them in serious condition, then I guess it is something to think about.

Shelly’s point is that the government seems to be woefully lacking in preparedness.

There doesn’t seem to be a crisis plan for handling the virus, she says. Each state has their own way of doing things, and even each clinic does what they want.

“There isn’t any mandatory testing,” she says.

Her son-in-law, Dave, got sick first. Then their six-year-old son. Both went to the doctor, who suspected H1N1, but they were not tested because their symptoms were mild and not bad enough.

“So they were never tested for the H1N1 flu,” Shelly says. “But we are pretty sure they had it.”

They had a moderate cough, which went away after 48 hours. Same thing for Brianna and their 11-month-old baby.

“Our daughter, Brianna, was on the Center for Disease Control web site, and that is where they found out the information about the H1N1 flu,” Greimann says.

Amazingly, they don’t know where Dave first got the virus from. He works as a salesman, and sees a lot of people. He also works for their church.

And no one else, outside of their family, has gotten the flu, including children Brianna does daycare for.

After Clarine was diagnosed as “99.9 percent sure” it was H1N1, she was quarantined and put in isolation for two days. Of course, by that time the family had all been with her – including grandparents Rahn and Shelly.

“There just doesn’t seem to be a clear cut plan on how to handle this disease, when to test for it and when not to,” Greimann says. “The government really needs to get it’s act together.”

I would have to agree. While it is probably not feasible to test every person who has a summer cold to see if it is H1N1, there should be a point when the test is done if the flu is suspected.

On the recent news it was reported a vaccination has been developed for this flu, but it will first be given to pregnant women only, then children and the elderly. Plus, there won’t be enough of the vaccine to go around before school starts.

Before the flu becomes even more widespread this winter, I hope there is specific plan of vaccination and testing, and a solid way of treating those who catch it.

According to the Center for Disease Control web site there have now been 43,771 confirmed cases in the U.S., with 302 deaths.

Wisconsin can add one more case to their 6,222, and we say a little prayer of thanks and relief that at least for one family in Wisconsin, the Novel H1N1 flu can eventually become a distant memory.
 
 

 

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