Thursday, October 2, 2008

Preparing for a Health Crisis in Athens County

by Alex Moorhead

The Athens City-County Health Department prepared for a health crisis situation Wednesday morning by testing its staff and volunteers in an exercise. The test was a mass vaccination with real clients. Evaluators threw obstacles at the staff to see how they respond to emergency cases.

"We know we're going to have events that are going to push us beyond our normal day to day basis," says Charles Hammer, administrator for the Athens City Health Department. The exercise had more than 300 people coming in between the hours of 8 am to 12 pm to receive their seasonal flu vaccine.

Charles Hammer talks about the need of volunteers

Volunteers Needed
One major focus of the drill was to see how volunteers, trained and spontaneous, can handle the potential of a mass vaccination. The average time of the patients' visit in the clinic was 7 minutes. Hammer says although this is a quick time for a visit, they still need more volunteers. For example, if Athens were to experience a flu pandemic the department wouldn't be able to handle patients in 7 minutes. The department is mandated by the Ohio Health Department to have tests and meet requirements.

Why to Get a Flu Shot
Some popular myths about flu shots are that they make people sick or they hurt too badly. But listen to this shocking statistic about the flu from Charles Hammer, "Around 35,000 people die from complications of the seasonal flu and 200,000 are hospitalized every year." By receiving a vaccination it can lessen the symptoms of the flu or completely prevent it. "It's a very fundamental basic way to protect yourself."

How to Avoid the Flu
The Athens City Health Department has a term it calls social distancing. Hammer explains the phrase to mean trying to avoid gathering in social places so coming into contact with other people's germs is at a minimum. Also, he says simply washing your hands can help you the most by preventing the spreading of the flu to yourself and others. The health department is giving free vaccinations again on October 16 and 17. To learn about how to become prepared for the unexpected has tips and advice.

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