Take steps to prepare for disease, county says

Stockpile food and water, health experts tell residents

Mesa County health officials advised families to prepare for an emergency by stockpiling food and water and urged sick people to stay home as a swine flu outbreak spread to Colorado.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Thursday confirmed two cases on the Front Range, one in Arapahoe and one in Douglas counties. The Mesa County Health Department said it had a suspected case here until further testing came back negative.

Health officials, however, are acting as though it’s only a matter of time before the virus hits the Grand Valley.

Local health experts have tried to maintain some perspective on swine flu, pointing out that seasonal influenza annually kills an average of 36,000 people in the U.S. and hospitalizes another 200,000 people. But they acknowledge that because there is no vaccine available and it’s unknown how severe the outbreak will become, they are taking multiple steps to try to control the spread and protect the public.

According to Health Department Director Michael Aduddell, those steps include:

• Planning for the distribution of medical supplies from a national stockpile once it arrives in western Colorado.

• Putting the Mesa County Medical Reserve Corps Unit on alert. The volunteer group consists of retired health professionals who offer assistance in emergency situations.

• Increasing surveillance efforts on patients with respiratory illnesses or who show flu symptoms so they can retrace their travel history or conduct further medical testing, if necessary.

• Establishing a communicable-disease hot line that physicians can use to contact the Health Department.

Health Department spokeswoman Kristy Emerson said if swine flu becomes widespread in the county, officials will suggest people stay home, which is why they’re recommending families collect a few days’ worth of necessities.

“That is absolutely the most extreme scenario, but it is something we want people to be thinking about,” Emerson said.


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