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Swine flu: Now not the time to panic

Now is not the time to panic when it comes to swine flu, Chilton County Emergency Management Agency and Homeland Security Director Bill Collum said Thursday. But that doesn’t mean the county shouldn’t be prepared.

Fortunately, officials have taken steps to ensure that local needs will be met in the rare case of a pandemic.

Chilton County is part of a nationwide preparedness plan — the Strategic National Stockpile — in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

“The plan addresses how we identify if there’s a pandemic occurring, as well as how to receive, store, secure and dispense medication,” Collum said.

In a pandemic, medication would be flown in from the CDC to Montgomery, offloaded on pallets, and transported to different counties under the supervision of law enforcement officials. Each resident would then be directed to one of several PODs (points of distribution) where they would fill out a short form and receive medication.

While all this might sound alarming, Collum said many things have to happen before the plan is initiated. This would include the closing of schools and businesses.

“None of this will happen until there is an emergency declared by the Alabama Department of Public Health,” he said. “People shouldn’t expect this to happen next week.”

The EMA has been in communication with school officials, the health department, hospitals and first responders to make sure all of its bases are covered. They are also getting daily reports from the state health department and state EMA.

As the CRI (City Readiness Initiative) Coordinator, local RN Teresa Marcus is taking the lead role on the medical side of the plan. She has compiled teams of doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other first responders to man the PODs.

Although the primary purpose of CRI is to prepare for an anthrax pandemic, the plans work hand-in-hand.

“This plan says we have to be able to medicate 100 percent of our population within 48 hours,” Collum explained. “We’ve dovetailed that into our SNS plan so we can make it work.”

Last week, Chilton County received $4,000 in cots that were state surplus property. Special kits explain how the cots can be placed inside a school bus and used for mass transport in case of a pandemic.

For now, Collum advises people to stay calm and use common sense.

“Take sensible precautions,” he said. “Wash your hands, cover your mouth, and don’t go to school or work if you’re sick.”