In June, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of swine flu to be a pandemic. Health organizations around the world including the South Carolina Department of Health and Environomental Control are diligently preparing for a possible flu outbreak later this year. DHEC spokesman Jim Beasley says under a new U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus nationwide $5 million is being awarded to South Carolina to step up prevention efforts in the state.”What’s its going to go for intially is getting vaccinations to the people, and also to make sure that our antiviral stockpile is correct. Also funds will go toward making sure other community mitigation measures are being prepared like the potential for having to isolate and quarantine people as we did back in the spring, when we had our intial outbreak. Also there may be a need to communicate with the people about the potential for school clusures once again.”
Beasley says there also may be a need to communicate to the public additional personal measures they should be taking to prevent the spread of the virus.
At a recent meeting in Washington, D.C. Beasley says state health organizations from across the country were given the message to be at the ready to retard the spread of a still very unpredicable strain of flu virus. “What we were able to do is meet with several of the cabinet secretaries under President Obama and we even had an address from the President himself expressing the importance of planning as no one knows exactly what this new virus that’s causing a pandemic is really going to do.”
Beasley says persons must continue to realize that they should continue practicing personal prevention methods because there is still no vaccine against this particular virus. Once a vaccine is developed, Beasley says DHEC and the medical community of the state will be ready to see that citizens receive it.
“When a vaccine does arrive we intend to let the people know what they’re going to need do in order to get vaccinated and it may even be a process where it’s possible that this vacination could require two shots because it is a new virus.”
Beasley says in every vaccination program it’s standard practice for a person’s physician and other healthcare providers to always question the patient about certain conditions, potential allergies, and side effects.
Beasley says while a vaccine for the H1N1 virus is being developed, DHEC has been able to stockpile a number of antiviral medications with the help of the General Assembly. “It provided some funding to DHEC to take a part in a federal purchasing plan so that we could stockpile some of these pills and help people in the event that a pandemic does breaks out. Now we do have this virus and it seems to be responding, for the most part, to some of these antiviral drugs such as tamiflu and relenza.”