FORT RILEY, Kan. - As Fort Riley prepares for a possible second wave of the H1N1 virus, its Soldiers and Families should also prepare for the possibility of illness.

"The most important thing to do right now is get the house ready and have it ready at all times," said Lt. Col. Paul Benne, chief of Preventative Medicine. "You don't know when (H1N1) is going to strike."

September is National Preparedness Month, and Benne said now is the time to prepare for flu season. Making a plan, getting a kit and being informed are the three pillars of the Ready Army Campaign - and the three steps to preparedness that can serve as the best defense against the spread of H1N1.

Get a kit

According to Benne and the Ready Army Web site, Families should prepare and emergency supply kit to last at least two weeks.

"That's food, water, living supplies," Benne said. "In addition to that, what would be needed for influenza would be over-the-counter medicines, particularly for fever or cough and cold symptoms. And that would be for the whole family - so syrups or chewables for children and tablets or capsules, typically, for the adults. Also, a working thermometer is very important for monitoring the disease itself."

Benne said that on average an H1N1 infection will last for three to five days. Having a kit ready, so the person does not have to go to the store or go to the clinic is vital in helping reduce the spread of H1N1.

"There are some folks that will need to come in and be seen," he said. "But the majority I think will be able to ride this out at home as long as their home or barracks space is adequately equipped."

Make a plan

In all emergencies, Ready Army recommends having a family emergency plan that includes provision to care for Family and a communications plan. Additionally, the campaign encourages people to consider options for emergency situation such as transportation routes, working from home, evacuation routes, shelter locations and points of distribution.

Most importantly, when making a family emergency plan for H1N1, the first action in a Family's plan, if they believe a member of their Family has the virus, is to call their doctor or the hospital triage system, Benne said.

"Our telephone triage system is well equipped," Benne said. "They know all the right questions to ask to determine whether or not symptoms are severe or whether a patient is at more risk than another patient, and they need to be seen or evaluated earlier. It all starts with a telephone call.

"It's much better to make that first interaction be a telephone call then to show up in a waiting room, filled with otherwise healthy people, sprained ankles or something, and be there coughing."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those with H1N1 should plan to remain "isolated" at home until they are fever free for 24 hours without using any sort of fever-reducing medication.

In addition to H1N1 Benne said, Soldiers and Families should plan to prepare themselves against the seasonal flu.

"Another way that I look at readiness is getting vaccinated," Benne said. "With the seasonal flu, it's a good idea to get that sooner than later."

Flu season is generally considered to begin in December and last as late as February or March, Benne said, adding that getting vaccinated early is better than later.

On post, the seasonal flu vaccine will be available begin Sept. 19 at the Fall Apple Day Festival at the Preventative Medicine wellness tent. After, Preventative Medicine will host flu clinics at its officer and will be at various high-traffic areas around post.

"For the seasonal flu, we usually have more than enough (vaccines), and we try to pretty much get everyone," Benne said. "We are not likely to, at least initially, have more than enough for H1N1."

Benne said he expects Fort Riley to get its first round of vaccines in late October. The vaccine would be available to a set of "priority groups."

The first group includes: pregnant women, patients who live with or care for children under the age of 6 months old, health care and emergency management personnel with direct patient contact, children 6 months to 4 years old and children 5-18 years old with chronic medical conditions.

A second shipment, which could arrive as early as mid- to late November would be utilized for a second priority group consisting of the above groups and all healthcare personnel regardless of patient contact, all individuals from 5-24 years old and 24-64 year olds who are at high risk of chronic problems or who have immune system problems.

"I think it's important for people to take a look at those and see where they fit in, and there may be a few that don't fit in," Benne said.

Be informed

For those who are unable to receive an H1N1 vaccine the best defense is hygiene measures, he said. Being informed of and learning techniques can help prevent the spread of H1N1.

According to Ready Army, these include:

Aca,!Ac Washing your hands with soap and water for at least 15-20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand cleaners can also effective if soap and water are not available.

Aca,!Ac Limiting direct contact by not shaking hands and not sharing objects with someone who is sick (utensils, remote controls, pens, etc.).

Aca,!Ac Disinfecting frequently touched surfaces such as door knobs, light switches and toilet handles.

Aca,!Ac Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

Aca,!Ac Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth often.

Aca,!Ac Teaching your children flu prevention hygiene.

Aca,!Ac Trying to stay in good general health, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, managing stress, drinking fluids and eating nutritious food.

"Until we have the vaccine, those are the only thing we can do. Even after we get the vaccine these things are still important," Benne said.

To learn more about H1N1, Benne suggests several sources.

A flu hotline at Fort Riley that will provide vaccine updates and local flu clinic information can be reached at 785-240-4FLU.

The CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov, the Irwin Army Community Hospital Web site at http://iach.amedd.army.mil/ and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment Web site at www.kdheks.gov provide information on H1N1.

For resources to help you be prepared, www.ready.army.mil contains information about emergency kits and family plans.

Additionally, Preventative Medicine is conducting "Fight Back" - a campaign to enlist the help of volunteers to help administer the H1N1 and flu vaccine. Benne said IACH will need medical and non-medical, support personnel to work with personnel to ensure smooth distribution of the vaccine and help prevent a public health emergency. To volunteer, call 785-239-7386.

About H1N1

According to the CDC, H1N1 was first detected in people in the United States in April 2009. This virus has spread from person-to-person worldwide, and has some similarities to the seasonal flu. The World Health Organization deemed the 2009 H1N1 flu a pandemic on June 11, 2009.

Typical symptoms include fever, dry cough, headache, body aches, tiredness, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea.

Page last updated Wed September 16th, 2009 at 18:15