Today's guest blog entry is by Marty Fenstersheib, MD, MPH, health officer for the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, in San Jose, Calif.
As a public health leader, a good part of my job involves planning and preparing for public health emergencies. I find myself asking hypothetical questions like the proverbial "what if?"
What if pandemic influenza comes to our community? What if health care and other essential workers can't come to work? What if we gave them information to be better prepared at home? Would that help?
While pandemic flu made the headlines a few years back, news coverage and a sense of the threat has fizzled. That's a problem because I believe the threat is just as real today. So what if pandemic flu started causing illness in people?
Public health officials worry about having enough healthy workers –- doctors, nurses, police and fire personnel and many others -- required to take care of our basic medical and societal needs. We know a shortage of these workers is likely in any large-scale emergency.
Did you know that in California all public employees can be called to serve as disaster service workers? It's true. But even with this state law behind us, I don’t think everyone will report for duty right away. Some will be sick –- doctors and nurses don't have any special immunity. Others will be taking care of sick family members, which is a natural, reasonable and caring response.
In an effort to increase the number of public employees who will be ready to serve, we undertook an innovative project: the Home Care Guide: Providing Care at Home During Pandemic Flu.* The guide has easy-to-follow sections such as preparing your home and providing good care at home. This hands-on tool is helping our public employees get their own homes ready and their families taken care of so that they are better able to fulfill their responsibility as disaster service workers.
While we are working to make sure our local community is better prepared, we also hope the guide will be helpful to health care professionals, emergency workers and necessary service workers in communities throughout the United States.
The information in the guide can help you prepare as well. Download a copy or link to our full version by visiting our Web site. Spanish and Vietnamese translated versions of the guide will also be available in August. Use the information in the guide to protect your health, and the health of people you love.
*The Home Care Guide: Providing Care at Home During Pandemic Flu was developed as part of Santa Clara County’s Advanced Practice Center Program. Designated as an Advanced Practice Center by the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department works to advance public health preparedness and develop “best practice” tools and resources to address preparedness challenges.