Oregon Department of Human Services Director's Message
September 11, 2009 DHS Director's messages on the web
To: All DHS employees
From: Bruce Goldberg, M.D., director
Are you prepared?
"New knowledge is the most valuable commodity on earth. The more truth we have to work with, the richer we become."
~Kurt Vonnegut
As you know, the Governor, DHS and the Public Health Division recently hosted a summit on pandemic H1N1 flu. It was very successful -- about 900 people attended in person and 500 more watched the morning session on live Web stream. Representatives from state agencies, local governments, business leaders, school districts, health care services and many other groups attended. The sessions are available on the Web at www.flu.oregon.gov, including the morning PowerPoint presentations from our Public Health Team about the status of the flu and vaccine.

One thing that was clear from the summit turnout is that people are looking for information on how to protect themselves and their families. And one thing we know is if we collectively take a few actions at home and at work, we can lower the odds of catching and spreading the flu which helps our agency to remain open when our citizens need our services this fall and winter.

Current status of pandemic H1N1 flu

The World Health Organization declared a pandemic for the H1N1 flu (formerly called "swine flu") in June. The virus continues to spread worldwide, and the federal government predicts that absentee rates could be as high as 40 percent. Most of the people who get this new strain of flu will recover within a week to 10 days, but that will still mean that a lot of people will not be able to work for a week or more.

Given the real possibility of widespread cases of H1N1, we will take a proactive approach to minimize the flu's effects on our ability to fulfill our core mission.

Preventing the flu

The symptoms of the H1N1 flu virus in people are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu. They include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. A significant number of people infected with this virus also report diarrhea and vomiting. Here are some ways we can all minimize the spread of H1N1:

  • 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.
  • If you are sick, stay home. Seek medical treatment when necessary.

For this flu season, the agency will provide tissues and hand sanitizer in common areas such as lobbies, break rooms, conference rooms, restrooms, etc.

Preparing at home

Consider the following suggestions as you examine your family's needs. This list is not exhaustive; use it as a starting point for personal planning.

  • Vaccination: The best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated and health experts recommend that everyone get the seasonal flu shot. The Public Employees' Benefit Board will continue its annual seasonal flu shot campaign. The seasonal flu shot, however, does not protect against the H1N1 virus. Health experts recommend that those at high risk from the H1N1 virus get an H1N1 flu shot as soon as it is available. For more information on PEBB's seasonal flu-shot clinics for state employees, visit the Board's Web site: http://oregon.gov/das/pebb.
  • Get healthy: Smoking and obesity increase your likeliness of contracting the flu.
  • Transportation: Could the flu interrupt your transportation to work? What's the plan if you or your carpool buddy get sick?
  • Childcare: Account for various scenarios (you get sick, your child gets sick, your caregiver gets sick, etc.) and then make a plan that works for you and your family.
  • Schools: Stay in touch with your children's schools, so you can understand their emergency procedures and the way they communicate with parents in an emergency.
  • Caring for other family members and pets: Who counts on you to check on them regularly? Parents? Aging relatives or neighbors? If you become sick who will serve as backup? Also consider the needs of pets.
  • Food: Keep some easy meals in case the flu makes it difficult to get to the grocery store. Find out what delivery options exist through local grocery stores and stock up on items to help a flu patient recover (for guidance, contact a healthcare professional).
  • Prescriptions: Ensure that you have a few extra days' supply of critical prescriptions. Understand the emergency options at your pharmacy, and look into home delivery options.
  • Emergency contacts: Ensure that family members know who to call in a given situation. Update phone directories and cell phones.

Preparing at work

In all the divisions and units of our agency, supervisors will ensure that our business continuity plans contain appropriate documentation to cover all job functions.

What's next

Because state government delivers critical services to Oregonians, state offices will remain open and state employees will stay on the job in all but the most extreme circumstances. Every preparation we make now will help us meet our obligations and duties during the flu season. In early October, we will share more information about the state's overall approach to managing potential complications from the flu season, including applicable polices and the tools available for you. If you have questions that relate to your specific work functions, please contact your immediate supervisor.

I hope you will join me to prepare. A small investment of time now will ensure we're well-positioned this fall and winter.

Web resources

Oregon's main flu site: www.flu.oregon.gov/
Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/
Frequently Asked Questions: http://oregon.gov/DAS/HR/flu.shtml
Public Employees' Benefit Board: http://oregon.gov/DAS/PEBB/flushots.shtml

Finally, please take a moment to remember those who lost their lives in the tragedies of September 11, 2001. And also recall with pride the many people who demonstrated both kindness and strength on that day and those who have since been motivated to give of themselves to improve our world.

DHS on the web