Yesterday, DHS, in partnership with the Commerce Department and Health and Human Services (HHS) released new guidance to the private sector on preparations for the 2009-2010 Flu Season.  With heightened concern over a resurgence of the H1N1 virus, the Administration is pulling out all of the stops to educate schools, businesses and the American public about the forthcoming vaccine, as well as measures that that every person should take to protect themselves from H1N1 infection and more importantly, what they should do if they become ill.

In an accompanying conference call with private sector members to further elaborate on the newly released details, DHS Under Secretary for National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD), Rand Beers introduced President Obama’s Senior Advisor, Valerie Jarrett who emphasized the importance of the newly released guidance, but also the fact that H1N1 preparedness and response had the full attention of the President and every part of his Administration.  

From there the call was turned over to experts from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) who gave an exceptionally good briefing on the newly released guidance and how it had been modified since the earlier H1N1 outbreak that occurred in the US this year.  The CDC presenter who was identified as RADM Redd (sp) shared that the infections models they were working from were getting away from 1918 Flu outbreak model that killed thousands.  He emphasized that the CDC and others had learned an awful lot about the H1N1 virus and are still learning more, hence the need to revise the earlier CDC guidance and outbreak/infection models.  

While encouraging everyone to get the vaccine when it becomes available, he also emphasized some common senses measures to limit the Flu’s spread.  These included frequent hand washing, staying home if you are ill, and making sure that employers put in place policies to accommodate the need for workers to stay home to care for family members as well as provide for telework options.

All of the presented teleconference information was very valuable and well presented, but even more details are available at the following sites:

The Federal Government’s Official Flu Website

Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to the 2009–2010 Influenza Season

Preparing for the Flu: A Communication Toolkit for Businesses and Employers

As interesting as the conference call was, the fact that DHS’ new Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Alexander Garza and the Private Sector Office were not part of the call was also intriguing to me.  Recognizing that the conference call was not meant to have a cast of a thousand voices speaking, DHS’ Office of Health Affairs and Private Sector Office have played very active outreach roles over the past few years in educating the private sector and general public about Pandemic Flu.  They’ve made substantive contributions to building a foundation that the new DHS Administration is building off of and I hope they will continue to be allowed to play substantive roles in future efforts.

Rich Cooper blog primarily on emergency preparedness and response, management issues related to the Department of Homeland Security, and the private sector’s role in homeland security. Read More