State health officials say they want to do all they can to prepare Iowans for a potential outbreak of the H-1-N-1 flu virus , without causing undue alarm. Tom Newton is the director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.
"It’s no time for alarm, but it’s a time to be prepared and that’s really what we’re trying to do here…preparing for the worst and hoping for the best," Newton said this week after a meeting with public health officials from around the state in Des Moines.
The H-1-N-1 virus is causing fewer severe illnesses than the regular, seasonal flu, but experts say it could become more dangerous. That’s why the state is sending postcards to every Iowa household later this month explaining how people can protect themselves from the virus. Newton says he wants Iowans to be prepared without being scared.
"It’s a very fine line and we walked this last spring as well," Newton said. "Fortunately, we experienced less severe disease than what initial reports were showing out of Mexico. Every indication at this point is that same disease is coming back to us no more severe than what it was in the spring." But, Newton notes, there have been deaths from H-1-N-1 so it’s important for Iowans to be prepared. The postcard asks Iowans to wash their hands often, cough into a sleeve or tissue and stay home when sick.
"We have specific criteria on our website that will help people understand how soon they can go back to work or school after they come down with a fever. Their primary care providers can coach them through that as well," Newton said. The H-1-N-1 vaccine is not expected to be ready until later this month or early October. Newton anticipates Iowa’s first shipment will include around 200,000 doses.