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Public Health Department Prepares for Flu Season

Seasonal flu vaccines should be available by early September

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department opened its Department Operation Center on Aug. 10 in anticipation of a resurgence of novel H1N1 influenza (swine flu) this fall and winter season.

The center will plan and implement a response in multiple areas that include:

» Public information and linkage to key governmental and public resources

» Specific guidance to local organizations, such as schools, residential facilities, etc.

» Leadership in planning for seasonal and H1N1 vaccination services in a variety of places and times for the protection of the public

» Preparation for increased need for access to medical care in private and public health-care centers

» Guidelines for treatment, including the use of anti-viral medications

» Assistance to private and public businesses to reduce the impact of flu on operations

It is uncertain when the H1N1 flu will return. The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department along with international, federal and state agencies will plan for all possibilities.

One of the most important steps will be for the public to obtain the seasonal flu vaccine. Season influenza is responsible for up to 35,000 deaths in the United States each year. This vaccine should become available late this month or early September.

In addition to getting seasonal flu vaccine, people can prevent the spread of influenza by:

» Washing hands frequently or using alcohol-based hand sanitizers

» Avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth

» Sneezing or coughing into the upper arm or sleeve to avoid contaminating hands

» Staying home when ill to avoid spreading illness to others

» Avoiding contact with others who are ill

Click here for more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

— Michele Mickiewicz is a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department.

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