Old News Archive

Pandemic Influenza Plan for Piscataquis County

August 30, 2006 - TRC


PISCATAQUIS COUNTY OFFICE OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT
163 EAST MAIN STREET, DOVER-FOXCROFT, MAINE 04426
Office : 564-8660, Fax : 564-3022, E-mail : pcema@verizon.net
Thomas F. Iverson Jr., Director

Information Concerning the Pandemic Influenza Plan for Piscataquis County Dear Citizen of Piscataquis County.

It's Unusual these days to watch the network news or read the paper without some mention of the threat of "Bird Flu" or "Pandemic Influenza." The state of Maine, and the federal government, says this threat is real. The Emergency Management Agency (EMA) Director of each county has been ordered to develop a plan to address the potential impact of such a pandemic flu on you.

We are all familiar with "flu" - the yearly appearance of a virus infection that usually results in mild illness lasting several days, although often affecting the elderly more seriously. Many of us have received "flu shots" in the past to protect against the unique virus that surfaces each year. The virus is unique because each year it is new and different from the year before and requires making a new vaccine.

The typical antibiotics that we are familiar with - like penicillin for step throat - only work for bacterial infections; they are not effective against viruses. There are, however, a few antiviral agents which, if effective against a pandemic flu virus, may help. These agents are expensive and may be in short supply.
"Pandemic" flu refers to the worldwide spread of a much stronger flu virus - its effect is mostly on the lungs and may affect breathing. There were three influenza pandemics during the last century, with the worst - the Spanish Flu - coming in 1918 - 1919 and resulting in millions of deaths worldwide.

As we measure the possible impact of a pandemic on Piscataquis County we use the Spanish flu model as our worst - cast scenario and plan from there. We learn by studying the 1918 situation that there was so much illness in a community that day - to - day life was seriously disrupted. Stores and businesses were closed because people were sick, hospitals were overwhelmed by a surge of sick people and because health care workers were themselves sick. We also learn that the people most affected in 1918 were 20-40 years-old.

We don't know when the next pandemic might happen... with it be this year, five years from now or 20? When it does happen, federal and state agencies may be stretched so thin that our county and its people will be on our own. Maine people have always been willing to help then- neighbors.

The federal government maintains an excellent web site - http://www.pandemicflue.gov (also the state at Maineflu.gov) - with information about pandemic flu. This includes planning lists that remind us we should store food to last at least for several days, medicine supplies, flashlights and extra batteries, a transistor radio - basic supplies to last for days or even weeks. This is good general preparation for any disaster and we urge you to BE PREPARED.

We also must remember that our neighbors may be ill, short of food or may need help. Perhaps "street wardens" would work well in your town, thoughtful citizens able to call upon each family on their street to check on their health and needs.
The Piscataquis County plan will have alternate sites of care away from the hospitals and closer to home. There will be sites for vaccinations, and phone banks available to give information and help. You will also get information about all these details through the newspapers, radio and television.

It is strongly recommended that should stay home if ill so you do not infect others. For the same reason, cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue if possible - flu viruses are spread by droplets from your mouth or nose. Washing your hands is the best way to protect yourself and others from an infection. Stay away from groups to avoid spreading the flu. Schools may be closed and social gatherings discouraged for this reason. STAY INFORMED.

Because our county may not receive outside help during a pandemic flu, your help as a volunteer will be needed. Please consider volunteering - IT IS VERY IMPORTANT. If interested in helping, fill out the attached form below. All information will be kept private and used only in an emergency. Please mail the form to: EMA, 163 East Main Street, Dover - Foxcroft, Maine 04426.
For more information, call 564.8660

Thanks,
Thomas F. Iverson Jr. Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency Director, Ben Kittredge, M.D., County Coordinator

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NOTE - This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of the TRC Alliance Team.