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Springfield City Council Gets H1N1 update

The new H1N1 influenza virus is on everyone’s minds these days. A few cases are popping up in Southwest Missouri already, and it will still be a few weeks before the vaccine is available here. But Springfield-Greene Health Department officials say they’re continuing to work hard to prepare for the virus. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more…

The FDA has approved four vaccines against the 2009 H1N1 Influenza virus. The vaccines will be distributed nationally after the initial lots become available—likely within the next four weeks.Meanwhile, Springfield City Council members received an overview of the H1N1 virus Tuesday from the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.Health Department spokesperson Jaci McReynolds says it’s going to take individual commitment to keep our community safe this fall…

"Certainly vaccination is the gold standard. It's a voluntary program, but we want to make sure we're giving people all the information they need in order to make the best possible decision for themselves and their families about whether or not they want to be vaccinated. But, regardless of that, it's still important that people continue to practice those proven prevention methods like handwashing and covering a cough and staying home when they're sick."

McReynolds says they’re trying to reach the younger population, which is at greater risk for catching H1N1, through social networking sites, Twitter, a blog and the health department’s website.She says, while the initial shipment of vaccines to Greene County will be for those in high priority groups, the federal government has assured health officials that they’ll support production of the vaccine until everyone has been offered the shots.McReynolds is encouraging business owners to plan for sick employees this fall and to take a look at their leave policies…

"Some companies offer incentive programs for employees to come into work. We want them to reevaluate that. If employees are sick, we really need them to be staying home, not bringing that illness into work."

She says businesses should also look at how their work areas are set up…

"Can they distance work areas? Can they maybe look at alternative schedules? Can people come in different hours? Can they work from home? And then the third thing we want them to do is look at their business' continuity plan. If they do lose 30 to 40 percent of their workforce, how can they safely continue to do business?"

McReynolds says they feel like the Southwest corner of Missouri is far ahead of other parts of the country in preparing for the H1N1 virus. She says that’s due in large part to the many collaborations that are in place, and she says the local healthcare systems have been a tremendous asset in the planning process.McReynolds says the H1N1 virus has become the dominant influenza strain in the Southern Hemisphere, and she expects it to do the same here.For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.