Flu outbreak allows for test of emergency plans

The outbreak of H1N1 flu has tested emergency health plans across the state. Deb Scholten, director of the Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department in Wayne, says they fell back on a plan that was developed in recent years in case of pandemic flu and other infectious diseases.

Scholten says the plan was brought out and had everyone’s names and phone numbers handy and all of the key personal were notified and activated rapidly. She says “one-voice” messages were prepared for the media to get the word out to the public right away.

She says public health authorities had to react to the news coming out of Mexico. It was known the virus was deadly but it wasn’t clear if the 100-some people died from the virus out of 300-some who were infected or if that was out of millions who were infected. That was an important bit of information the U-S needed to know before proceeding.

Scholten says past planning paid off for her department this time, and will again in the future. “We held over 60 meetings in communities with counties and with different institutions, like hospitals and clinics and different businesses, and everything was all open to the public,” she says.

At last report, six cases of H1N1 were confirmed in Nebraska, with four of the six being Nebraska residents. Nine more cases are still pending in Scotts Bluff, Sarpy, Madison and Stanton counties. Eight of the nine are children.

Thanks to Jerry Oster, WNAX, Yankton