Public Health Emergency Preparedness
Epidemiologists tell us it is not a matter of "if" we have another pandemic but, rather "when" we have another pandemic.
Le Sueur County Public Health, along with county emergency managers, are working to plan, and exercise, an organized response to outbreaks of disease or other public health emergencies. Le Sueur County officials, under the direction of regional and state agencies, have plans in place as to how to manage public health emergencies. The plan might involve medicating or vaccinating our entire population or it might be a matter of teaching people how to protect themselves without the use of pharmaceuticals.
As part of the process, an understanding of terms is necessary:
- Airborne Transmission - Infectious disease spread through very small droplets that can remain suspended in the air or carried on air currents through a room via the ventilation system of an enclosed space.
- Bioterrorism - A purposeful act of violence on an individual, community, group or place, using biological organisms as “weapons” dispensed to cause illness and death on contact or with person to person spread of a bacteria or virus.
- Communicable Disease - Contagious diseases caused by bacteria, viruses or toxins (produced by organisms) that may be spread directly or indirectly from person to person.
- Droplet Transmission - Infectious disease spread through tiny droplets in the spray from the nose or mouth via coughing, sneezing, or speaking – usually within a 3 to 6 feet area.
- Essential Personnel - Those people that provide services to the community that protect the health, safety and well-being of the community, such as doctors, nurses, police, fire fighters, emergency services, volunteers and others needed to work at mass dispensing or triage sites and keep vital community services operating.
- Isolation - Separation and restriction of movement and activities of ill persons who have a contagious disease, to prevent transmission to other people.
- Mass Dispensing - The process of providing vaccination or medication to a large number of people to prevent illness in those that have been exposed to an infectious disease or agent.
- Public Health Emergency - An event where the public is exposed to a life-threatening organism/germ/illness where either vaccine or medication would be given to the public at mass clinic sites or there is no medication or vaccine to prevent or treat the disease and isolation and quarantine would be in effect.
- Quarantine - Separation and restriction of movement and activities of persons who are not ill but who have likely been exposed to a contagious disease to prevent transmission to others.
- Strategic National Stockpile - Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has large quantities of medicine and medical supplies stored throughout the country, to protect the public.
- Triage - Screening of persons to determine if they have symptoms of the contagious disease or have been exposed to someone who is ill or contagious.
If there is a medication or vaccine for an infectious disease that is threatening our residents, a Mass Dispensing Plan will be activated.
Mass Dispensing Plan
The plan is to initially medicate/vaccinate persons who will maintain essential community services or who will help with mass dispensing to the general public. (This will occur within the first 12 to 20 hours after a disease event has been identified.)
Mass Dispensing Sites
Mass Dispensing Sites, for the general population, will be opened as directed by the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
In the Case of a Shortage
If there is a shortage of the medication or vaccine, Le Sueur County Public Health will follow directions issued by MDH. There will likely be priorities set as to which segment of the population is at the greatest risk and should receive the first available medication or vaccine.
The current plan is to have one dispensing site in Le Sueur County and to have people bussed in from four different staging areas around the county. All people will be screened before they are allowed to get on the bus. People who are ill will be sent to a designated treatment site or asked to contact their physician.
Le Sueur County Public Health staff, and volunteers, will be able to medicate/vaccinate all county residents in less than 72 hours. The plan also includes getting medication/vaccination to people who are unable to board a bus and travel to the Mass Dispensing Site. These people will be treated in their place of residence.
If Influenza virus spreads across the world, there will not be vaccine or antiviral medication for everyone for the first several months. We will need to be prepared and follow some simple guidelines to help protect ourselves and our families or at least delay becoming ill with the virus.
- Personal responsibility for selves and others will be the key to prevent illness.
- Be prepared with health care supplies. Have food, water, over the counter medicines, and face masks at home to meet living needs for up to two weeks, among other supplies.
- Be prepared to stay at home when ill, and keep children home from school when ill.
- Be prepared to stay at home when directed to do so by health authorities. This may be the only way to protect yourself and your family from becoming ill.
- Be prepared to take responsibility for your own health and illness prevention by avoiding crowds, working from home or changing lifestyles as needed to protect selves and others. Viruses need warm bodies to spread from person to person.
- Be Informed! Information regarding the spread of a disease, plans for Mass Dispensing, or any other public health emergency, can be obtained by listening to your local radio stations. Those radio stations are KCHK at 1350AM or 95.5FM, or KRBI at 105.5FM.
- Have Access to a credit card for purchasing medications, groceries and/or other supplies that may need to be delivered to your home if you are ill or not able to leave your home. (Stores may not deliver if you do not have a method of payment.)
- Get a pneumococcal vaccination if you are over 65 years of age or have chronic illnesses. This may help prevent pneumonia as a complication of influenza.
For more information on how to prepare for a pandemic flu, visit the Pandemic Influenza website.