Health experts: H1-N1 may explode in Autumn - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Health experts: H1-N1 may explode in Autumn

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

MOULTRIE, GA (WALB) -  The H1-N1 virus is spreading faster than any pandemic in history and health officials say the time to plan is now. 184 cases have been confirmed in our state and one Georgian has died.

Health officials estimate as much as 35 percent of south Georgia's population could be sick this fall.

Health officials today said they're prepared to take it as far as asking employers to take employees temperatures at the door to make sure people who exhibit flu symptoms like a high fever stay home.

They're not taking chances and they're asking businesses and schools to come up with a plan on how they'll handle high numbers of flu cases.

Colquitt County employs as many as 450 workers providing vital services, if 35 percent of them were out sick with the flu, leaders worry how they'd get by.

"Our main concern is how we're going to continue to service the county and their needs anything from the garbage to prisoners," said Deborah Cox, Colquitt Co. Public Information Officer.

No longer are officials counting cases, they're watching hospitalizations and death rates. The 1918 flu pandemic saw a quick spike and health officials worry this pandemic could be worse. They want everyone from businesses to service agencies to prepare for the worst.

"From something very simple like where you cough or where you sneeze to how often do you wash your hands or what you wash your hands with," said Capt. Doug McClure of the Salvation Army.  "Obviously these are some small steps we're going to make sure are put in there with our employees, our staff our volunteers."

The highest hospitalizations have been among children. When classrooms fill in several weeks Southwest GA Public Health District Dir. Dr. Jacqueline Grant will be watching five southwest Georgia schools to see if the virus is spreading.

"To get an idea about their baseline absenteeism and also have a recording mechanism in place so if there's any spikes or changes in their base absentee rates of their students that they're notifying us quickly," she said.

99 percent of the flu cases out there are the H1-N1 virus. Health officials are already talking about how hospitals might handle a rush on their Emergency Rooms come fall.

"To take away the surge at the emergency rooms that perhaps there may be an alternative site where people can go to be triaged," Grant said.

Health officials say they want businesses to take a long look at their absentee policies and encourage employees this fall if they're sick especially with symptoms like a high fever for more than three days, to just stay home.

Health officials are also encouraging those who are at high risk, like children, pregnant women, and those with compromised immune systems, to get a seasonal flu shot and an H1N! Vaccine when they become available.

      • Get more information at these websites-

www.southwestgeorgiapublihealth.org

www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/

www.pandemicflu.gov

www.health.state.ga.us/h1n1flu

www.who.int/csr/en


 

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