27 April 2009

Who do you call about swine flu?

Well, York County, where do you go if you have a question about a possible swine flu epidemic? If you're one of the 45,000 people that live in York, you might try the City Health Bureau. The Web site doesn't have any news on swine flu. And the rest of York County, about 300,000 of you, probably doesn't even know the city has its own health bureau.

So you might turn to your county government. And the county does have a new site, Ready York, under the Office of Emergency Management, which has some really good resources. But it doesn't have anything related to swine flu, so the mechanism for providing breaking news announcements may not be, um, ready, yet.

Maybe you go to the state Department of Health. It took some poking around, but I finally found the Health Alert Network, which posted two swine flu alerts over the weekend. The news there: No confirmed cases found in Pennsylvania, yet.

No, the one local health entity that had easy-to-find news on its Web site about swine flu was Wellspan, which directed people to contact their primary care physician and to avoid visiting patients in a hospital for seven days after the start of symptoms. It also gave a link to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn more.

How do other communities handle something like this? Well, in Lorain County, Ohio, where a 9-year-old boy was confirmed with a mild case, I quickly found the Web site for the Lorain County General Health District. The home page had an alert posted that gave details of the boy's case and noted that the boy's school district had notified parents and set up a phone bank to answer questions.

York County doesn't have this kind of go-to resource. It's kind of scary that a lot of people here would probably have no idea where to find answers about a potential epidemic or pandemic.

And that's one really big reason why YorkCounts supports the creation of a countywide health department.

Do you think York County is ready to handle a major public health issue quickly and effectively?

Update, 4 p.m. 4/28: Since yesterday, the state Health Department put up a large link at the top of its home page. The link goes to a wealth of information about swine flu. Also in the past 24 hours, Wellspan added an FAQ on swine flu and a link to the state Health Department site. And this reminder: For those who agree that a county health department is a good idea, the folks at the Healthy York County Coalition have an online petition to sign at http://www.wheresmycountyhealthdept.com/.

Update 2, 10:30 a.m. 4/30: The American Red Cross has a great primer on flu preparedness. Check it out here, and click on the flu checklist link.

- Dan Fink

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I spent a very long time Monday searching for the symptoms and had a very hard time. As a mother of young children in daycare, this was rather concerning. I'd love to call my pediatrician's office but I might wait days for a return call for emergencies let alone a call for information.