By By Spc. Shameka EdwardsJanuary 11, 2010
FORT CARSON, Colo. - Soldiers and civilians assigned to Fort Carson joined community leaders and servicemembers from Colorado Springs and the greater Colorado area for a tabletop exercise Aug. 27 to discuss a plan of action for a possible influenza pandemic.
Nearly 100 servicemembers, health officials and emergency responders from the Mountain Post and El Paso County attended the discussion at the Fort Carson Elkhorn Conference Center, where officials and subject matter experts explored coordination and communication responses to a hypothetical outbreak along the Front Range.
According to the Evans Army Community Hospital website at http://www.evans.amedd.army.mil/pandemicflu/index.htm, a pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges and people have little or no immunity and no vaccinations exist.
In the occurrence of an outbreak, Fort Carson medical staff will care for Soldiers and their families assigned to the Mountain Post, said Lt. Col. Mary Krueger, 4th Infantry Division surgeon.
El Paso County health services will in turn concentrate on the local community, added Krueger.
The Fort Carson medical staff and the El Paso health officials will work together to provide the best care for the greater Colorado area, she said.
The division surgeon said the 4th Inf. Div. will operate within the guidelines set by Col. Jimmie Keenan, commander of Evans Army Hospital and director of health services for Fort Carson.
The division has medical assets such as physician assistants, medics and equipment to augment Evans Army Hospital if an outbreak occurred, explained Krueger.
Evans Army Hospital will subsequently integrate Fort Carson into El Paso County's guidance, she added.
Throughout the El Paso community there is a shared concern and responsibility to ensure all assets are working together, said Kandi Buckland, El Paso County health director.
The medical climate is ever changing, explained Buckland. The information being reported today may be different tomorrow.
The reality is that the pandemic flu is global. Regardless, the health department must take the necessary preventive steps to protect the community, she said.
Neither Fort Carson or El Paso County Health Department will be able to predict a pandemic ahead of time, so opportunities for leaders to plan for a contingency response are very important, said Buckland.
The most up-to-date guidance based on the situation can be found on the El Paso County Health Department website at http://www.elpasocountyhealth.org/pages/swine_flu.aspx, she added.
The hospital's goal is to inform the Soldiers and Family Members where information can be found in the event of an outbreak and what steps to take if a loved one becomes ill, said Col. Andrew Kosmowski, public health emergency officer, Evans Army Community Hospital.
According to the Evans Army Hospital website, most patients with H1N1 virus will have symptoms very similar to seasonal influenza.
The more serious symptoms include difficulty breathing or chest pain, purple or blue discoloration of the lips, vomiting and unable to keep liquids down, signs of dehydration such as dizziness when standing. Symptoms may also include the inability to urinate, a lack of tears in infants when they cry, seizures, uncontrolled convulsions, unresponsive and confusion.
Soldiers displaying these symptoms should report to sick call immediately or go to the emergency room, said Krueger.
Family Members and Department of Defense personnel should also contact their health care provider for guidance, she added.
The vaccination for the seasonal flu is available but the H1N1 vaccination is still in the works, said Kosmowski.
The Department of Defense is working to ensure that the vaccination will be safe and effective, he said.