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Officials prepare swine flu pandemic plan

The H1N1 Swine Flu virus isn’t as deadly as originallypredicted, but local governments would still be faced with a hugeproblem if, for example, the entire sheriff’s department had to layout of work for a week with the virus.

That’s why the federal government and emergency agencies down tothe local level are urging the development of contingency plans incase the virus begins to spread. Accordingly, Lincoln County CivilDefense Director Clifford Galey is drawing up a local pandemic fluplan to help elected officials keep essential services in order incase deputies, crewmen and other employees fall ill and can’treport for duty.

“It’s going to wind up being a plan to keep the government goingwith help from health officials in keeping people informed on whatto do and how to do it,” Galey said of the plan, which is about 50percent complete. “It’s just a generic plan for procedures if itwere to get severe and a lot of people were to be sick and out ofwork.”

Galey said the plan would basically handle “what if” situationsand would include a list of emergency services, how each oneresponds to particular emergency or disaster situations and how tocontact them. The plan is designed vaguely, he said, and the actualbackup plan for replacing sick employees in times of emergencywould be decided by the individual departments themselves.

Once completed, Galey said the flu plan would be added to thecounty’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, the essentialresponse plan used during disaster situations, which is revised andupdated as necessary.

“This is just one of those things that was not ever needed, sothere was not anything to put in there about it,” he said. “I thinkthe federal government and state are just trying to be sure localgovernments have a plan in place to give them guidance ifneeded.”

Galey said the pandemic flu plan is not being developed becauseof the severity of swine flu, but simply to as a backup plan tokeep services functioning during employee outages. He said the planwould not be very different from existing portions of the CEMP.

“In my view, right now, it’s no big thing,” Galey said. “Somethings come up that we have to revise our CEMP for. It hasprocedures and ‘what-ifs,’ so to speak.”

According to the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Website at www.healthyms.com, the number of swine flu cases reportedin the state since spring is 1,032 – 10 times the number ofseasonal flu cases reported, which is 135.

However, only eight deaths have occurred, most of which involvedvictims with pre-existing health conditions. The percentage ofswine flu cases resulting in death is 0.007.

In Lincoln County, nine cases of swine flu have been reportedsince May 15, as compared to four cases of season flu since April27. No deaths have been reported locally.