|by Bob KulpNewton County Health Administrator
Neosho, MO – The recent case of a man with drug resistant tuberculosis who traveled internationally has many people wondering how safe Americans are from contracting a disease at any time, in any place. The suggestion has been made that if this man was traveling with a new form of influenza, the world might now be facing the next pandemic.
While many lessons will be learned from this incident, one very important change we must make as Americans is to develop a culture of better hygiene We must make it a habit to wash our hands frequently, avoid touching our eyes, mouth and nose, and stay home when we are ill. These are the kinds of disease prevention methods that will help protect us during a pandemic influenza and every day.
As the Newton County Health Department and its partners plan for pandemic influenza, bioterrorism and other public health emergencies, this basic prevention message remains the same. Americans in general have become dependent on vaccinations and medications as protection or treatment against disease. In the case of pandemic influenza, it is likely that neither of those things will be available. Individuals must learn to protect themselves and their communities with basic personal hygiene and with voluntary isolation, quarantine and social distancing measures.
In the absence of vaccine or antiviral medications, especially during pandemic influenza, voluntary self-isolation and quarantine will be critical in helping our community control the spread of disease. We must begin mentally preparing today for that possibility. Social distancing measures, such as keeping a distance of 3-4 feet between yourself and others, will likely be our best line of defense against something like a novel strain of influenza that our bodies have no immunity to.
The Newton County Pandemic Influenza Planning Committee meets monthly to address public health and safety issues in order to develop a strong response plan for pandemic influenza and other public health emergencies. These meetings are open to the public. For more information, call (417)451-3743.