Fighting the 'cold war'
September 11, 2009
By Jeremy Wise
FORT RUCKER, Ala.--Dozens of post leaders conducted a pandemic influenza tabletop exercise here Tuesday to discuss proactive measures aimed at curtailing the spread of the H1N1 virus.
Jerry Curtiss, Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security specialist, said a pandemic influenza tabletop exercise like this is mandated annually by the Department of the Army. The upcoming fall and winter seasons traditionally bring increased illnesses with them, Curtiss said.
Besides concern for the health and welfare of the Fort Rucker population, Curtiss noted another critical reason for prevention of an H1NI pandemic on post - training requirements.
"This couldn't come at a better time because it gives commanders a chance in advance to go back and talk to their organizations and develop those action sets they need to have," Curtiss said of the exercise.
"You still have to produce Aviators," Curtiss said. "It doesn't make a difference if it's the flu or whatever else that's preventing us from doing that. We've got to figure out how to mitigate the risk of this so we can still produce those trained Aviators."
He said the Army relies on pilot throughput here, and the team cannot let the global military down due to sickness. Deputy Commander for Clinical Services Lt. Col. (P) Dana Renta said an H1N1 vaccine is anticipated to arrive here the end of October. All active-duty personnel will be vaccinated, she said. The vaccine is highly recommended for high-risk patients. Renta encourages everyone to be prepared, just as they would with any other potential emergency situation.
"To me, it's like hurricane preparedness," she said. "People should consider having enough food and water at home if you get sick."
She explained once someone becomes ill, they will not be ready to return to their normal activities for about seven to 10 days. Also they should be fever-free for 24 hours without anti-fever medications. Renta also noted Lyster Army Health Clinic will issue absentee notices to schools and businesses if necessary.
Individuals should check with their schools or workplaces for specific absentee policies. Those interested in acquiring a notice should call 255-7000. Officials advise anyone feeling ill to stay home and wash their hands often. Personal prevention can spare others from contracting the virus.
Garrison Commander Col. Yvette Kelley is currently working with each post directorate to plan for hypothetical situations. She said she hopes prevention will minimize H1N1 cases here, but said post officials will be prepared in the event of a pandemic.
"I want to focus on prevention," she said. "Prevention is key. Leader involvement is critical." Kelley stressed unit and directorate leaders should encourage their Soldiers and workers to stay home if they are ill. She said leaders must remove the stigma associated with calling in sick.
She also noted the post community must be vigilant in following preventive measures, whether H1N1 appears to be a severe threat or not. "Our biggest challenge right now is to minimize complacency," Kelley said. For more information on H1N1 prevention, visit www.rucker.army.mil/PAO/H1N1.html.