On Thursday, Aug. 10, Health Department director Dr. David Goodfriend prepared Loudoun County residents for a possible pandemic flu. A pandemic flu is a worldwide outbreak of a type of flu people have never been exposed to.
"The time to prepare is now," he said. "If we wait for the flu to hit, it will be too late to stock up on supplies and get medication."
In an effort to educate the county, the Health Department used federal grant money to hold flu pandemic summits, most recently to the general public at the Loudoun County Public Schools Administration Building in Ashburn.
"Flu pandemics typically hit every 10 years," Goodfriend said. "We’re do for one."
AT THE MEETING, Goodfriend projected photos from the 1918, 1957 and 1968 pandemic flus onto the administration building's wall. The words "Influenza" and "Pneumonia" flashed across the screen.
The 1968 pandemic flu killed 40,000 people, Goodfriend said.
"The challenge is, if Loudoun is having a pandemic, we just can't go to Fairfax for help," he said. "If everybody's being impacted, we won't have the resources to bail us out. We're all going to be in the same situation."
The most likely candidate for the next flu pandemic is Avian Influenza, referred to as the Bird Flu, said Virginia Department of Health deputy commissioner Lisa Kaplowitz.
In order to prepare for a possible attack, the state and local health departments, local business and organizations have teamed up with the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors and County Administrator Kirby Bowers to make a plan.
The Loudoun County Pandemic Flu Task Force meets monthly to do just that.
IN THE EVENT of an emergency, county administrator and director of emergency management, Bowers, is in charge. Once the Board of Supervisors declares a state of emergency, Bowers duty is to meet with the Sheriff's Office and the Loudoun County Public School's Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick, as well as other members of the Pandemic Flu Task Force to execute a plan.
Ironically, Bowers was unable to attend the meeting, due to flight delays because of the reports of possible terrorist attacks that morning.
"Communication is everything," said Bower's assistant John Sandy.
The Pandemic Flu Task Force has teamed up with the public access cable network and has a Web site dedicated to emergency preparedness, www.co.loudoun.va.us/general/emerprep.htm.
To alleviate problems during an emergency, Sandy said it's important for residents to prepare in advance.
"It's unpredictable," Sandy said. "Be prepared."
AT THE END of the meeting, Goodfriend reminded families to stockpile a two-week’s supply of water and nonperishable foods, such as canned meats, fruits, vegetables and soups, protein bars, peanut butter and crackers in the cupboard or pantry.
"Every home should have an emergency preparedness kit," he said.
In addition to food and water, Kaplowitz said it would be a good idea to have an extra supply of prescription drugs in the house.
Residents should also include flashlights, batteries, hand sanitizer, toilet paper and trash bags in their emergency preparedness kits.
To protect each other from spreading the flu year round, Goodfriend reminded residents to stay home from work and school when sick, keep three feet to five feet away from infected persons, cover their mouths with their arm, not their hand, when they cough.
Most importantly, residents should wash their hands frequently during flu season, Goodfriend said, holding up a bottle of hand sanitizer as the second best bet if a person can't get to a sink.
Whether or not Loudoun gets hit with a pandemic flu, Kaplowitz said it is always important to be prepared.
"We need to get prepared for all types of emergencies, whether it be Anthrax, SARS or a pandemic flu," she said. "We need to plan for families, individuals, governments and businesses before it's too late."