Swine Flu Update...‘Be prepared’

According to the SCDHEC web site report, as of August 5 there were 5 confirmed cases of H1N1 influenza, commonly called swine flu, in Bamberg County. That is out of a population of 16,658 citizens. The numbers indicate that swine flu is spreading, but also give some perspective and remind county residents that instead of useless panic, we should instead focus on being prepared.

Bamberg County Emergency Services Director Sharon Hammond said in an interview this week that being prepared is the most important thing individuals and businesses can do. Hammond assures that there has been years of preparation for such a pandemic flu outbreak, and now that it is here it is time to implement those plans and adjust our lifestyles and work environments accordingly.

According to Hammond, “I follow the lead of DHEC…when there is more than the usual numbers, that is when we would get involved and the plan would go into effect.” Hammond adds that everyone should have a plan to sustain them in case of illness that causes them to limit outside contact until the virus passes.

Hammond stresses the need for each person to work with their families, communities, and employers to develop a plan of action to manage business and personal affairs, and the importance to have an individualized plan for basic needs like food, water, medications, and emergency cash. “Everyone should have a plan …businesses should have plans, schools should have plans, families should have plans.”

Hammond suggests taking advantage of technology such as internet, phones, virtual meetings, and other communication options to limit personal contact until the flu pandemic passes. Schools, businesses, churches, and other community organizations should all work together to implement emergency plans and help each other to prepare in advance.

“You don’t have to prepare everything in one day, you can prepare over a period of time, but you should be prepared,” continues Hammond, “if you get sick for two weeks, can you sustain yourself, can you pay your bills, can you live for two to three weeks on your supplies…the most important thing is to be prepared.”

According to SCDHEC website, “The overwhelming majority of H1N1 patients experience mild symptoms and make a rapid and full recovery. Most people who have tested positive for H1N1 in South Carolina have reported mild symptoms that are similar to those of seasonal flu.”

These symptoms include: fever, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle aches, diarrhea.

There are some things you can do to stay well and avoid spreading the flu virus:

• Stay away from people who are sick.
• Stay home from work, school and errands if you are sick.
• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
• Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Other good habits, such as getting plenty of sleep, engaging in physical activity, managing stress, drinking water and eating good food will help you stay healthy all year.

Official information and preparedness suggestions may be found at the Bamberg County website: www.bambergcountysc.gov, or at South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control website: www.scdhec.gov.