President Barack Obama declared a national emergency Friday related to the outbreak of H1N1 flu, allowing health officials greater leeway under federal regulations to respond to the virus which has reportedly claimed the lives of 1,000 Americans.
A national flu map shows widespread flu in 47 of the the 50 states and estimates South Carolina as one of just three states with only regional influenza activity, as reported by the state health department.
Preparation in managing the different aspects of the flu outbreak has been on-going for several years in our state, and goes beyond health care organizations and providers. One such organization that’s heavily involved is the South Carolina Baptist Convention.
Clif Satterwhite, Director of the Disaster Relief Group says, “When H1N1 became a situation that might be bigger than just DHEC could handle, they approached us and said, would you like to partner with us? And we said ‘sure.’ ”
In disaster relief, the organization was already a partner with the state as well as other volunteer organizations. “We work very carefully with Salvation Army, Red Cross, Adventist Church, Catholic Charities, United Methodists, Presbyterians, as well as DHEC and DSS and different counties, and Emergency Management in different counties, as well as SC Emergency Management,” says Satterwhite.
Satterwhite says the Disaster Relief Group is 20 years old. Five years ago the organization added medical units after seeing what was needed in the areas hit by Hurricane Katrina when doctor’s offices, hospitals and dental offices were completely wiped out.
“I’ve been meeting for 5 years on pandemic preparation for Bird Flu, and we had no idea 5 years ago when we started meeting with different agencies and organizations that this would turn into H1 N1 or the Swine Flu,”he says.
The South Carolina Baptist Convention and many volunteers across the state are ready to help in anyway they can when it comes to handling what may come with the H1N1 outbreak.