SACRAMENTO /California Newswire/ — Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today urged Californians to prepare for the upcoming flu season during a visit to California’s state-of-the-art Richmond public health laboratories and, along with his Health and Human Services Agency Secretary Kim Belshé and California Department of Public Health (CDPH) Director Dr. Mark Horton, launched the Web site (www.CalPanFlu.org) to register doctors, clinicians and other professionals who will provide vaccinations for the H1N1 virus.
“California has been preparing for the possibility of a flu pandemic for years so we stand ready to combat what could be a very severe flu season with the threat of H1N1,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “The state of California is taking H1N1 very seriously, and I urge every Californian to take it seriously too. We can all take important precautions to prevent getting sick or spreading the flu virus including covering your cough, washing your hands frequently and staying home when you are sick.”
The Richmond public health laboratories played a critical role, both in California and nationally, in monitoring and understanding the nature of the H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu. It was the first state public health laboratory in the U.S. to do H1N1 confirmatory testing, allowing California’s health leaders to follow developments quickly. The laboratories are responsible for conducting screening and confirmatory testing, providing guidance to other labs in California, and monitoring the virus for changes. They play a critical role in the state’s overall public health emergency response system.
State public health and emergency response officials have been planning for the further escalation of the disease and the rollout of a vaccination program. This includes expanding surveillance to detect increased pandemic activity, continuing development of clear guidelines for the public, working with local health departments to ensure health care facilities can respond to a surge in the need for patient care, and strengthening communication lines with medical providers and the public to get out information. CDPH will continue to work with federal and local partners on a vaccination program in California.
The vaccination Web site, www.CalPanFlu.org, will be administered by CDPH and will allow doctors, clinics and others that want to provide vaccinations to register necessary information with the state to be able to get a supply of H1N1 vaccine. As vaccines are made available, CDPH will make the list of providers public on its Web site at www.cdph.ca.gov.
Governor Schwarzenegger also called on Californians today to do their part by taking steps to slow the spread of the virus and prepare for the upcoming flu season.
“Each of us should be taking action now to prevent and prepare for the spread of H1N1,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Businesses need to be prepared that employees will not be in the office and parents need to plan for kids to be home from school. Everyone must do their part to limit the spread of the H1N1 virus.”
Everyday actions that can be taken to help protect against and prevent the spread of germs that cause the flu include:
•Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
•Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective.
•Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
•Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
•Stay home if you are sick for 7 days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer. This is to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.
The H1N1 flu virus has the potential to sicken millions of Californians in the months ahead, with as many as 1 in 4 Californians getting ill with the H1N1 flu. Since it was first detected last spring, the virus has continued to spread through the summer, taking the lives of more than 100 Californians.
Further information about H1N1, including prevention tips and the latest information about the development and distribution of a vaccine is available on the CDPH website at www.cdph.ca.gov or by calling 1-888-865-0564.