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County Executive Encourages Residents to Prepare for H1N1

H1N1 Flu Shot Ready in October

Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi, joined by county, village, school and health officials, announced the county has purchased refrigerators to store H1N1 vaccines, expected to be released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in October.

The county expects to receive enough vaccines for residents who fall into the “high-risk” category: pregnant women, children between the ages of six months and 24 years, individuals between the ages of 25 and 64 years with underlying health conditions, household contacts and caregivers of infants under the age of six months, health care workers and emergency medical personnel. Suozzi reminded residents to take the necessary precautions to remain healthy as schools open and the flu season kicks in.

 

When H1N1 was first discovered last year, Suozzi immediately began working with local school districts, hospitals and municipalities to develop a comprehensive action plan for the 2009 H1N1 flu season.

“As the summer comes to a close and the school year kicks into gear, it is important that everyone takes the necessary steps to stay healthy,” Suozzi said. “Each year, we tell our residents to take precautions as the flu season approaches, and this year, especially with the new White House panel’s report about H1N1, it is even more important. The greatest tool for combating the flu is common sense, such as washing your hands frequently and covering your mouth when you cough. Most importantly, everyone should get a flu shot.”

Suozzi also recommended that schools should open as scheduled and remain open throughout the school year, noting that H1N1 illness is mild at this time.

“It is critical for the county to work with our school districts to educate the community on simple ways to stay healthy this flu season,” Legislator David Mejias (D-Farmingdale), chairman of the Legislative Health & Social Services Committee, said.

The Nassau County Health Department urges all residents to be mindful of the approaching flu season and H1N1. Maria Torroella Carney, commissioner, Nassau County Department of Health said, “I urge everyone to get their flu shots this year. Individuals who have flu-like symptoms are encouraged to see a doctor and avoid emergency rooms at hospitals if possible. The Health Department has been working closely with school districts in the county to ensure safety in the event there is a serious health threat.”

James Callahan, commissioner of the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management, added, “The Nassau County Office of Emergency Management has been working with local governments and schools to develop a plan to combat the flu in the event of an outbreak of the H1N1 virus. We are fully prepared for the flu season, and ask all residents to be aggressive in their own preventive measures as well.”

Last spring, the emergency departments of hospitals across the North Shore-LIJ Health System saw an influx of patients concerned about possible exposure to swine flu, North Shore-LIJ President and CEO Michael Dowling said. “In response, the health system activated its Emergency Operations Plan and worked closely with health officials in the City of New York, the State of New York, Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” Dowling said.

“In preparing for flu season, we will again be monitoring flu incidence across Long Island, offering free flu vaccinations and educating the public and our employees about the importance of following universal precautions – such as hand-washing – to prevent the spread of the flu,” Dowling added.

Further, Nassau University Medical Center has been working closely with the county’s health department to prepare. “We urge all county residents to educate themselves on the need for flu vaccinations and on the appropriate safety precautions for the upcoming flu season,” Dr. Walerstein, Nassau University Medical Center medical director, said.

Suozzi urged residents to include the following health tips in their fall and winter plans:

1. Get a seasonal flu shot. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Every year, 36,000 people die from flu-related causes in the United States. The single best way to combat the flu is to receive a flu shot and practice good health habits. In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can get vaccinated. October through December is the best time to receive a flu shot. A seasonal flu vaccine will not protect individuals against novel H1N1 (formerly known as swine flu). A new vaccine is being produced for novel H1N1 and should be available in the coming months.

2. Have a regular medical home. Identify a health care professional or medical office to coordinate and oversee you and your family members’ care, whether sick or healthy. Having an identified physician or care site for you and your family members gives health care professionals a better understanding of one’s family health history; this helps support continuity of care.

3. Practice good health habits and take everyday preventive actions: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way. Avoid close contact with people who are sick and when you are sick, stay home from work, school and errands. Eat nutritious food, be active and don’t smoke. Manage stress. Balance work, home and play. Take time to relax and get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. Make sure children get more, based on their age. Get check-ups. Regular check-ups are important; ask your health care provider how you can lower your chances for health problems and maintain good health.

4. Be prepared in case you get sick and need to stay home for a week or so:

Have a supply of over-the-counter medicines. Wash hands with soap and water and/or have available alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Have tissues. Have other related items that might be useful and could help avoid the need to make trips out in public while you are sick and contagious.

5. Stay informed. Follow public health advice regarding the flu. To date, the majority of affected individuals with novel H1N1 (formerly known as swine flu) continue to experience mild to moderate symptoms similar to ordinary seasonal flu and most residents have recovered. It is important to keep in mind that each year, seasonal flu is implicated in approximately 2,000 deaths in New York State and 36,000 deaths nationwide and a new report from the White House estimates H1N1 will kill anywhere between 30,000-90,000 Americans.

The Nassau County Department of Health will continue to implement the guidance issued from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health in its efforts to mitigate the impact on public health, and inform and educate the public to limit transmission of the influenza. Nassau County continues to meet, work and communicate with schools, health care providers and hospitals daily in planning for the fall/winter influenza season.