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County preparedness for H1N1

Fri, May 8th, 2009
Posted in Government

Public Health Director Sharon Serfling provided information on the H1N1 influenza and recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus. She said they are not focusing on the number of confirmed cases as much as the effort to contain them. There are daily conference calls as the situation is evolving. Her office receives numerous health alerts. "There is no known case of this disease in Fillmore County."

Serfling noted that the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) refers to the new strain as H1N1 now. The World Health Organization still calls it "swine flu." The WHO claims that changing the label now would cause confusion. Chairman Chuck Amunrud said the label was not right, just because it is easy to say, isn't a reason to use the label. The new strain is a mixture of genetic material from avian, human, and swine viruses. There is a concern that this mixed virus can be more dangerous because it is a strain that our immune systems have not been introduced to before. However, at this point in time, people who get the flu are experiencing typical seasonal flu symptoms.

New directions are to watch for flu in schools, keep schools open and sick children at home. The MDH is asking that lab specimens be submitted to test for the new strain only when a patient has been hospitalized for influenza like symptoms. The MDH say that the virus is widespread, but is behaving like regular seasonal flu. Sick people should stay at home. The MDH stresses the importance of handwashing and covering one's mouth when coughing or sneezing.

Dr. Lynfield, Minnesota State Epidemiologist, says they are targeting severe cases for testing, but this does not infer that the disease is becoming more virulent. She expects that the targeting will identify a small number of cases and warns that this is not necessarily a sign that the potential threat from H1N1 is over.

Director of Emergency Management Deborah Teske said the strain is acting like seasonal flu, but in the past a virus like this has mutated into a more virulent virus. Action plans in case of a serious outbreak in the county are in place. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is working on developing a vaccine which is expected to be available in the fall. The county's current role is monitoring and information dissemination.

Serfling noted that the prescription drug Tamiflu should only be taken when indicated with flu symptoms. If the drug is used irresponsibly, it could cause an anti-viral resistance.

Regional Adult Mental Health Initiative

CREST Project Facilitator Lynn Skinner informed the board as to the progress of their efforts to redesign all of the adult mental health services in the ten county southeast Minnesota area. The effort started in the mid 1990's. The project started with a small mental health facility in Rochester. She explained that keeping the small facility staffed is a challenge.

Skinner said patients go into an Intense Residential Treatment facility and are normally discharged after 45 to 60 days and are moved into the community. There are four of these treatment facilities in the region. Fillmore County is served by Zumbro Valley Mental Health in Rochester. Once patients are discharged into the community, if they are not provided with supervision and support, many will stop taking their medications. Skinner calls this the "merry-go-round."

Patients that go off their meds often end up back in the Intense Residential Treatment facility. The project is proposing sixteen bed facilities with a homelike setting where patients get support to keep them off the "merry-go-round." The first would be located in Owatonna.

Skinner emphasized the need for consolidation and regionalization to be cost efficient. She said that Zumbro Valley is struggling. No mental health center in the state has more than three or four weeks of reserve funds. Skinner remarked, "What we need to do is what serves people the best for the least amount of cost." Clients that receive medication and supervision can do very well.

Commissioner Duane Bakke noted that Governor Pawlenty's plan for fifteen regions is based solely on population in each region. Skinner explained that our ten county collaboration is far ahead of any other in the state.

Other Business In Brief

• Mike Frauenkron said there will be a field day on June 10 at the Jim Marzolf farm. New rules for animal disposal will be discussed and there will be a talk on a composter.

• Highway Engineer John Grindeland presented and received approval of the bridge replacement list which includes those bridges to rehabilitate or remove through 2013. The deficient bridges listed are ranked as high priority to be improved and will be worked on when funds are available.

• On April 28, the board approved an interim ordinance putting into effect a moratorium on Large Assemblies, over 500 people. A committee was approved to study the ordinance and make recommendations to the Planning Commission. The committee membership includes, Duane Bakke, Tom Kaase, Brad Erickson, Christopher Graves, Daryl Jensen, Sharon Serfling, Deborah Teske and possibly a township representative.

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