Iowa public health officials getting ready for H1N1 - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa public health officials getting ready for H1N1

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -- New statistics from the World Health Organization show more than 162,000 lab-confirmed cases of H1N1, and over 1,100 deaths linked to the virus. One death confirmed earlier this week in eastern Iowa.

While the virus is still relatively tame, when compared to seasonal flu, health leaders are planning for what they think will be a fall season with a lot of new cases.

"H1N1 is in a pandemic mode, and Dubuque is going to be affected," Dubuque Public Health Specialist Mary Rose Corrigan said.

Corrigan is getting the word out about H1N1. On Wednesday, she spoke to the local business community at a Chamber of Commerce lunch.

"We can predict that it will come and it will be here, but how severe it will be is a big question," Corrigan said.

Lisa Reynolds is an occupational health nurse contracted by Eagle Window and Door. Her company sent her to the workshop to learn more and bring back some ideas.

"To start with, it'll basically be getting out there prevention information, then the signs and symptoms, what to watch for and when to seek help," Reynolds said.

Besides general information, Corrigan says companies, schools, and communities need a pandemic plan. Public health officials say business owners should prepare to operate with 30% less of their workforce, so out of every ten people, three of them might not be at work.

"You need to plan for: What are your essential services or what are your backups for various positions? Can you develop policies for work from home or extended sick leave so that employees aren't afraid to stay home when they're sick? Which is definitely what we want them to do," Corrigan said.

"That's a concern I'd never given much thought to before as to the impact it would have on production as well as just the community alone," Reynolds said.

Bottom line: Corrigan says planning for the most severe will keep more people healthy -- and keep the city from shutting down if h1n1 sweeps through Dubuque.

Experts say cases will likely spike in the fall because people spend more time indoors, kids are back in school, and as we all know, its just typical flu season.

"What we've learned from past influenza pandemics is often times they start out rather mild and as they progress, the disease can worsen and cause more severe illness and symptoms. That may happen with this new H1N1, or it may not," Corrigan said.

Online Reporter:  Jamie Grey

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