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Story from the Field

Name of Health Department/Agency: Polk County Health Department
State: WI
Date Added: 05/06/2009
Themes: Communications - General H1N1,State and Local Coordination
Issue Summary: Preparedness planning pays off for rural local health department
Description of Issue(s): Our Health Department serves a rural area in Northwestern Wisconsin. We are also a fiscal agent for a 13 county/1 tribe Public Health Preparedness Consortium. We are fortunate to have the 2 Consortium staff housed in our agency as they were a big help during the H1N1 response! We have spent the past 5 years planning for a situation like the H1N1 outbreak and have been receiving training on emergency response including the incident command system. We have also been creating detailed response plans, exercising them and have been purchasing technology for our Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and staff.
Actions taken to address the issue(s): When Wisconsin announced its first probable cases of H1N1 we immediately activated our EOC. I was at a Legislative Event that morning and my staff are so well trained they opened the EOC on their own using ICS perfectly. We immediately convened meetings of our medical clinic and school partners to update them about H1N1 and to assure they were up to speed on reporting protocols, prevention recommendations, care and isolation of ill people as well as knowledgeable about school closure protocols. We communicated with daycare centers, businesses, government officals and employees and the faith community about the siutation and prevention strategies. We quickly estalbished links with the public information officers in our medical clinics and got a flu website activated as the primary source of H1N1 information in our county.Our probable case was reported to us on a Saturday night and our staff coordinated a smooth response over the weekend so that school closure? went well Monday through Wednesday. We called a press conference about the probable case to avoid constant media calls to our agency. We also established an automated phone line about H1N1 in Polk county.
Outcomes that resulted from actions taken: We believe the work we did under preparedness funding was critical in our ability to respond well to this outbreak. Our concerns are primarily staff capacity should the outbreak have been more serious in level of illness. None of our staff were ill. As it was 6 agency staff have done nothing but H1N1 response the past 2 weeks and other job functions have been ignored. It would be difficult to maintain this level of response over an extended time frame if staff were to become ill. The bottom line is that we were prepared for this outbreak due to preparedness funding for our agency and region.

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