EMC prepares to educate public about swine flu

PAT FRIDGEN

Greencastle Emergency Management Coordinator Ben Thomas Jr. wants local residents to receive personal notification about the significance of H1N1, referred to as the swine flu. He approached Greencastle Borough Council Sept. 8 with a public education plan which would cost the borough 2,000 sheets of paper.

“My concern is those who do not have daily media influence,” Thomas said. “Some people rush to the emergency room, which is the worst thing you can do. If they call 911, they put that ambulance out of service because it is contaminated.”

He reported that as of Sept. 3 five cases had been found in Franklin County, and 2,100 in Pennsylvania. The new influenza A virus was first noticed in the United States in April and is having outbreaks around the world. In June the World Health Organization declared a pandemic.

Thomas had met with the Public Safety Committee, which supported his plan. Kevin Swope from Dice Imaging offered to donate printing services if the borough provided the paper. Thomas wants to present educational information on the symptoms, what people can do to prevent or limit infection, what precautions to take in the home and contact numbers with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

He hoped to get assistance from local volunteers to go door-to-door to hand out the flyers, but not to offer medical advice.

Council unanimously okayed the idea. Distribution of the pamphlets to homes and businesses is slated for the end of the month.

The flu

H1N1 spreads like other viruses, but has not died down after the summer season. It is passed from one person to another by sneezing or coughing, or touching a germ surface and then one’s mouth or nose. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. Some people also get diahrrea and vomiting. Severe illnesses and death can result. Simple tasks such as handwashing and sneezing into elbows slow the transmission of the disease.

Thomas wants to alert people to the proper procedures if they think they have the new strain of flu. It usually does not mean a trip to a medical facility.

The Center for Disease Control recommends staying home for 24 hours after a fever has broken, without the use of fever-reducing medicines. A call to the Penn. Dept. of Health or one’s health care provider may be beneficial before taking a trip to the doctor.

“Hospitals are gearing up for this and have set aside quarantine areas,” Thomas told council. “The last thing they want is their staff infected.”