Health department teaches plague prevention

The Florida Department of Health teamed up with the Disaster Resistance Community Group on Saturday to show residents what would happen if an influenza pandemic broke out in the Big Bend area.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people wouldn’t have resistance to a new virus. Hospitals would become overwhelmed, and the number of deaths could be high.

Kevin Peters, emergency medical director for Leon County, said the best way to handle a situation like this is to be prepared.  

“It’s important to take the time beforehand to get information,” Peters said. “That’s the key to prevent the panic.”

Peters said college students should also have emergency kits in their homes, even if they live on campus.

“Kits should include 72 hours worth of supplies,” he said. “It should contain water, non-perishables and clothes.”

Persell Scott, a Wal-Mart employee, said he has two kits: one in his home and one in his car.

“There is no such thing as being too prepared in the event of a natural disaster or flu pandemic, especially with the flu being such an easily contracted virus,” Scott said. “I want to always have supplies that I need.”

According to the CDC, students often think getting vaccinated is not a preventative measure that they should take.

Trenton Pope, a fourth-year occupational therapy student from Tallahassee at FAMU, said there’s not one vaccine that can protect him from everything.

“The vaccines vary within individuals, and some people are protected from the flu and others aren’t,” Pope said. “There are just too many side effects.”

Ann Waltz, a registered nurse for the Leon County Health Department, said students, the elderly, pregnant women and children are the most ideal candidates for the flu shot.

“Students have to understand they’re coming into contact with a mix of people from all over on a daily basis,” Waltz said. “And with three college campuses within minutes of each other, the flu shot would be the most effective first step in protecting yourself.”

The event offered several tips to protect oneself against the flu:

  • While hand sanitizer may be beneficial it’s not as effective as soap and water.
  • Minimize contact with those individuals who are sick.
  • Instead of handshakes, two people can bump elbows or fists.
  • Your face is a “no-no” zone. After you have done your hair and make-up for the day, keep your hands out of your eyes, mouth and nose.
  • Clean public surfaces before use. Computers and cellphones carry millions of germs.