Western Health is preparing to be ready to respond to Pandemic 2009 H1N1 Influenza - Oct 15, 2009

Western Health has been preparing to respond to H1N1 and be ready for the second wave of the influenza when it hits our region. As an important part of this planning, all departments at Western Health have finalized business continuity plans for pandemic. This involved planning to prioritize services, how to access essential supplies, how to best utilize staff, and where to access extra staff if needed.
Western Health has been preparing to respond to H1N1 and be ready for the second wave of the influenza when it hits our region. As an important part of this planning, all departments at Western Health have finalized business continuity plans for pandemic. This involved planning to prioritize services, how to access essential supplies, how to best utilize staff, and where to access extra staff if needed.

“We have been preparing for this pandemic for a number of years”, said Dr. Greg Mercer, Regional Medical Office of Health.  “Having these plans in place ensures that we are ready to respond when we need to.”

Along with the other health authorities and the province, Western Health has secured a stockpile of essential supplies and equipment including protective equipment like masks, gloves and visors for employees involved in the care of people who are infected with H1N1. Western Health has begun the process of positioning some of the provincial antiviral stockpile so that it is ready to be used. The authority has also begun the process of hiring casual staff from people who have recently retired from the organization to ensure we have extra people if needed.

Once H1N1 vaccine is available, Western Health will have a very deliberate campaign to ensure that all Western Health employees involved in pandemic response are among the first groups vaccinated. Western Health is also preparing to immunize all persons who wish to be vaccinated with the H1N1 vaccine through mass immunization clinics to be held at several communities in the region.

Western Health is working with our physicians to put contingency plans in place should there be a dramatic number of people who have flu like symptoms needing to see a physician.  As well this week, we are asking the physicians in all communities to increase testing for H1N1 virus in all communities. Once we have several positive tests in an area it is safe to assume that everything else that looks like influenza probably is, and we then reserve testing more for people with severe disease or people at high risk of complications.

The Department of Health and Community Services and Western Health will be actively promoting messages to the public surrounding symptoms of H1N1 Flu, who's at risk, and what are more worrisome symptoms. This will supplement the Clean, Cover and Contain campaign that is ongoing.

The major challenge worldwide in dealing with this virus is the sheer volume of people who become ill because this is a totally new flu virus and people under age 65 appear to have no immunity. This has resulted in large numbers of people seeking flu related care to the point that the health system in various countries has had to prioritize services to meet the demand. Overall, the bulk of people experiencing this infection have had a mild illness requiring nothing other than to rest at home and the use of medicines like Acetaminophen for relief of their symptoms.

The first wave of H1N1 was relatively late arriving in this province, with relatively little community-wide spread here because the weather was improving in June, and people were spending less time in close quarters. We anticipate that the second wave will be upon us soon as the weather is cools and the cough and cold season begins with school reopening. Our regular Influenza season doesn't usually start until January in this province and runs through the end of April.

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For more information,
Please contact:
Heidi Staeben-Simmons
Director of Communications,
Western Health 709-637-5252

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