In April 2009 an outbreak of human cases of H1N1 flu was discovered in North America. By mid-June, the World Health Organization had raised the worldwide pandemic alert level to Phase 6, indicating a global pandemic was underway. More than 70 countries are now reporting cases of human infection.
In the United States, most people who have become ill with H1N1 have recovered without requiring medical treatment. However, according to the CDC, this virus could cause significant illness with associated hospitalizations and deaths in the fall and winter during the U.S. influenza season.
While nobody can be certain of what will happen this fall, the America Red Cross, along with government agencies and partner health organizations, are planning and preparing for the possibility of an increased spread in the H1N1 flu.
This past week, President Obama's cabinet held a H1N1 Flu Preparedness Summit to prepare for the possibility of a more severe outbreak of H1N1 flu. Joe Becker, American Red Cross Senior Vice President of Disaster Services was in attendance, along with government officials, health and emergency preparedness professionals, policy makers, and business leaders.
According to Sharon Stanley, Red Cross Chief Nurse, “It’s important to remember that the Red Cross partners at every level of pandemic planning and response, from the field at the local level, clear up through the White House like the event this week. This gives us the ability as the Red Cross response operation to have a working knowledge in order to take care of our communities in a pandemic environment.”
In addition to coordinating and planning with government and partners, the Red Cross is taking other steps to prepare. They include:
- Disseminating flu preparedness information and coping and emotional well-being guidance to the public.
- Encouraging Americans to stay up to date on CDC flu guidance.
- Offering flu-prevention tips for children.
- Using social media channels to promote infection control practices.
The Red Cross is also ramping up plans to provide specific services. To this end, the Red Cross will tailor it’s response from community to community depending on the needs of that specific area. During a flu pandemic, the Red Cross will:
- Continue to respond to disasters of all types and sizes.
- Provide educational materials and logistical support alongside local health partners.
- Educate the public and disseminate information from the CDC, and state and local public health agencies.
- Ensure a safe blood supply.
At this time, the American Red Cross continues to monitor the current H1N1 outbreak. The most important action the public can take now to reduce the spread of the H1N1 virus is to practice healthy hygiene habits.
About the American Red Cross:
The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and counsels victims of disasters; provides nearly half of the nation's blood supply; teaches lifesaving skills; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross is a charitable organization — not a government agency — and depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its humanitarian mission. For more information, please visit www.redcross.org or join our blog at www.redcrosschat.org.