Volunteers needed to help during flu vaccinations

PAT FRIDGEN

Franklin County has been staying on top of issues surrounding H1N1, referred to as the swine flu, and is advising municipalities how to prevent or slow the virus and how to handle the workplace to assure continued services should an outbreak occur. Susan Dutko, Department of Emergency Services coordinator, updated the Council of Government members Sept. 16 on the latest details.

"There's a lot of activity behind the scenes," she said. She asked each municipality to appoint someone to monitor the Pennsylvania Department of Health website daily to keep current with flu information. In the event the Dept. of Health made mass innoculations available to the public, she sought volunteers to assist at the event, typically over a three day stretch, from a Friday to Sunday. The target date was in October.

"We can use any able-bodied person," she said. The volunteers can come from all over Franklin County and would be used at the registration table, to help with traffic control in the parking lots, and to escort people through the immunization site, called the Point of Distribution. She likened the help to that done at blood banks.

She is compiling a list now of people to be contacted if the health department provides the vaccine for the county. Anyone interested in helping should call 264-2813.

She hoped schools would become vaccination centers as well. After a site was registered, supplies would be drop-shipped there directly. Greencastle-Antrim School District superintendent Dr. C. Gregory Hoover said he had applied to be a site but hadn't heard back yet.

The school population would take advantage of any vaccinations offered on campus, as children were classified at higer risk. People ages 19-65 in good health would go to the county POD, Dutko said.

Keep services going

Dukto was concerned that municipal offices take precautions to reduce the risk of employee infection so important public services were not interrupted.  She encouraged social distancing if possible, with staff members three to 10 feet away from each other while working. A supply of hand sanitizer should be available and masks for anyone who requested them. Work shifts could also be staggered to reduce personal contact. She told the municipal leaders to be proactive.

"Look at your continuity of operations if there is employee absenteeism."

Vaccinations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified five groups that should get the H1N1 vaccination when it first becomes available, as they are most vulnerable to complications. They are pregnant women, people ages six months to 24 years, healthcare providers and EMS personnel, people living with or caring for babies under six months old, and those under 65 years with underlying medical conditions. Dutko said most in these groups should go through the school sites or with their personal physicians, and the general public could use the POD. The goal was to not overwhelm the hospitals.

CDCP says unlike seasonal flu, people over 65 are not considered at particular risk with H1N1. Dutko also told the COG representatives that it appeared the vaccine would be in shorter supply than initially anticipated, so some people usually covered first would not be, such as ambulance drivers.

The website H1N1inpa.com has been established by the Pa. Dept. of Health. People without internet access may also call 1-877-724-3258.

Secretary of Health Everette James said, “We expect to see a steady rise in H1N1 flu cases in the coming months, so it is essential that Pennsylvanians have ready access to the latest important developments."

As the public waits for the onset of the illness, and the cases that have already appeared are controlled, the Dept. of Health offers the following tips so that everyone can take an active role in curtailing the spread of the swine flu:

— Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and put the used tissue in the waste basket.  If don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve, but never into your hands or onto bare skin.

— Keep your hands away from your face and donít touch your mouth, nose and eyes.

— Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

— Keep clean frequently used surfaces such as knobs, countertops and desks.

— Stay home from work or school whenever you are sick, and remain home until you are fully recovered.