HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Education Secretary Arne Duncan penned an op-ed, published today, highlighting the federal government’s coordinated efforts to combat H1N1. As they discussed, these efforts help ensure that we will be prepared as possible for flu season in the fall:
We don’t need to wait to act. In the fight against flu, preparation is more than half the battle — and we need everyone to chip in.
We in the federal government have been aggressively responding to the new H1N1 since April. We’re building on what we learned from the early spring season and from health officials in the southern hemisphere where flu seasons are already underway.
In addition to preparing the seasonal flu vaccine as usual, government scientists and vaccine manufacturers are working around the clock to produce a vaccine to protect people from the new H1N1 flu virus. And we’re making good progress on both fronts — the seasonal flu vaccine is ready for distribution and we’re on track to have an H1N1 vaccine by mid-October.
We’re also working closely with cities, states and across government agencies to make sure we have a rapid, coordinated response this fall. In the last few months, we’ve sent more than $350 million in federal grants to states, tribes, territories and hospitals to help them strengthen their flu response.
In early July, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Education held a flu summit for governors and public health officials. Just this week, we hosted another summit for mayors and county officials and webcast it on flu.gov — which has become the best place to find up-to-date information about flu.
But of course it can't be said enough that preparation is not solely the responsibility of the federal government – we must all do our part to prevent the spread of the flu:
Until a vaccine arrives in October, prevention is our best defense. That means we all need to make sure we wash our hands frequently with soap and water, cough or sneeze into a tissue, and stay home from work or school if we’re sick.
It also means planning ahead. Parents should talk to their employers and make child care arrangements in case their kids get sick. And if a school closes, learning shouldn’t stop. Schools need to create opportunities to learn online and work with parents to find ways for students to bring textbooks and other resources home.
If you’re an employer, you should plan to get by with a reduced staff. You don’t want an employee who’s ill to spread flu in the workplace. If you’re a medical provider, you should plan to handle more calls and patient visits. An outbreak will bring people who have flu and people who have flu-related symptoms or concerns into your office.