Coweta officials hold discussion on H1N1 flu

Thu, 05/07/2009 - 3:33pm
By: Ben Nelms

The number of cases of H1N1 influenza present across a number of states and nations appears to be waning and has produced many fewer serious complications and deaths than originally considered possible. That notwithstanding, a group of officials from local and regional health agencies, government, school and business met in Newnan May 5 to discuss the current status of H1N1 and the type of response that might be indicated if the strain made its way to Coweta County. The discussion also had applications for any type of public emergency that might occur in the future.

“The discussion went well. We presented a united front and we have a game plan. We don’t want anyone to panic if anything happens, but to turn to their physicians and their local health department,” Coweta County Emergency Management Director Jay Jones said of the meeting and of recent concerns over the H1N1 strain. “This united front is for the community, for the common goal of protecting the citizens of Coweta County.”

As much as anything, the meeting was designed to bring together stakeholders that would be responsible for initiating a response to a community emergency. Jones was quick to note that the experience gained from bringing the various groups together stands to pay dividends for many other types of public emergencies, whether directly related to health issues or to natural or other disaster scenarios.

“We can use this exercise as a lesson learned for a variety of hazards that may occur in the future,” Jones said. “We are getting to know each other better and we put some of the procedures in place that would be needed.”

Panel members in the discussion included Jones, Piedmont Newnan Hospital Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ed Racht, Georgia Division of Public Health District 4 Program Manager John Darden, Coweta Health Department Director Alice Jackson and Chief Nurse Sally Millians.

Panel moderators included Coweta County Public Information Officer Patricia Palmer, Newnan Public Information Officer Gina Snider and Coweta School System Public Information Officer Dean Jackson. The Coweta Chamber of Commerce was also represented.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) May 5 reported 403 laboratory confirmed human infections with novel H1N1 flu in 38 states in the United States. CDC announced it will be verbally reporting probable cases at the daily telebriefings.

This virus is spreading from person-to-person without regard for borders, race or ethnicity. However, children have been more likely to be identified as infected with this virus compared to adults, CDC said.

The virus has been reported in 21 other countries, according to the World Health Organization, though there is no evidence of sustained person-to-person transmission outside of North America.

CDC said it expects that more cases, more hospitalizations and more deaths from this outbreak will occur over the coming days and weeks.

Each year in the United States, seasonal influenza results, on average, in an estimated 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations from flu-related causes, according to CDC. This outbreak certainly poses the potential to be at least as serious as seasonal flu, if not more so, especially given the fact that there currently is no vaccine against this virus, CDC reports said.

The list of states with the numbers of people who are confirmed cases is updated daily at approximately 11 a.m. at

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