For many Americans, preparing for H1N1 flu has been fairly simple: more handwashing, getting an immunization (if available), stocking up on tissues and medications and following updates on the news.
But for public health workers around the nation, preparing for H1N1 flu has been an intense, coordinated effort designed to keep people safe and informed, according to presenters who spoke at a session at APHA’s Annual Meeting in Philadelphia this week.
The behind-the-scenes work on H1N1, also known as swine flu, by health officials began as soon as the virus was identified this spring and is still continuing in states and communities throughout the nation.
Public health officials are continuously trying to improve communication between health care providers and health departments. For example, at a November 9th Annual Meeting session on H1N1 presented by Mary Davis of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said that North Carolina public health agencies are working closely with local health departments to make sure that health providers are receiving the best information possible about H1N1 so they, in turn, can pass their knowledge on to the public.
With new research being done regarding H1N1, it’s important for everyone to remember to stay flexible during a time when we may be receiving all kinds of new information. As Tamar Klaiman of the O’Neil Center for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University recommended during her presentation, with a new disease outbreak on the horizon, people should expect uncertainty because scientists and health officials are constantly collecting new data and may change guidelines to ensure that we have the most up to date information available. With new information, improvements can be made to better future responses in preventing spread of H1N1.
With more information out there on H1N1, more people are becoming aware of the availability of the vaccine: According to a study done in North Carolina in mid-September, more people said they planned to get an H1N1 vaccine than months ago.
As H1N1 flu cases continue, health workers will continue to plan and adapt, focusing on issues such as school closures, vaccination clinics and communicating with the public, according to session presenters.