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Webster Parish preparing for H1N1
Webster Parish preparing for H1N1
Sep 9, 2009 --
Webster Parish is doing its part to prepare for the potential problems that could develop as the H1N1 virus spreads throughout the state. Residents are urged to educate themselves and not assume that the level 6 pandemic will not affect them.
H1N1 currently produces fairly mild symptoms similar to that of the common flu virus. However, officials and medical professionals are monitoring the spread of this virus so closely because of its unique makeup. H1N1 contains a variety of markers that make this strain, in particular, very susceptible to mutation into a much more dangerous illness.
"If even one of those markers mutates we'll have a much worse virus on our hands," explained John Stanley, director for the Webster Parish office of homeland security and emergency preparedness. "It’s highly probable that many of the flu-like illnesses we’ve seen recently here in Webster Parish were, in fact, H1N1.”
While the mortality rates of the current H1N1 strain that is sweeping through the country are low, the rate of exposure to the virus is extremely high. Officials estimate that 30,000 Louisiana residents have already been infected by the H1N1 virus.
“Imagine if that large quantity of our state residents had been exposed to a mutated strain,” said Stanley. “The impact would be devastating. That’s why we’re preparing—because if we end up with a dangerous mutation on our hands, we know it will spread too quickly to be well-managed. Having 30,000 people already affected in the off-season is an incredible indicator of a potentially critical predicament.”
While parish officials don’t want to cause panic or fear, they ask that residents closely monitor their children and youth, in particular. All flu-like illnesses should be treated with caution, and schools and medical facilities are asked to report identified potential cases.
H1N1 symptoms include:
- body aches
- cough and cold symptoms
Individuals with these symptoms should use over the counter medications to control elevated body temperatures and other symptoms, and children and young people should not return to school or universities until their bodies have maintained a normal temperature for at least 24 hours without medications. Likewise, adults should also stay home from work and other activities until their bodies are fever-free.
H1N1, even in its existing relatively mild state, is most dangerous to young children, pregnant women and any persons with compromised health. Studies have shown that a large majority of healthy senior citizens have developed immunity to the virus from previous exposure to a similar strain during childhood.
Preventative measures such as frequent hand washing, social distancing when ill, coughing and sneezing into a tissue or sleeve, and sanitizing in the home and workplace are all strongly advised.
WPOHSEP is working with schools, hospitals and prisons parish-wide in an attempt to closely monitor the progression of suspected H1N1 cases. Residents are encouraged to be vaccinated with the common flu vaccine, as well as the H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available. All parish officials, schools, medical professionals and community leaders are strongly advised to accurately and regularly report all flu-like cases identified to the Webster Parish Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness.
“We haven’t even made it to our regular flu season,” said Stanley. “We hope that H1N1 won’t affect us any more than it already has; but the potential for serious problems is elevated and we need everyone to act responsibly and assist in the protective measures we’re taking.”
Those businesses, industries and offices required to report will be provided proper forms by the WPOHSEP with which to do so. Regular situation reports will be posted to the website of the Webster Parish Police Jury, under the WPOHSEP section, at www.wppj.org.
Webster Parish Police Jury - Webster Parish Courthouse Annex
401 Main St., 1st Floor - P.O. Box 389 - Minden, LA 71058 - (318) 377-7564 Office - (318) 371-2366 Fax