The State of Wisconsin is again sending out this influenza update, both for its timeliness and to test the state’s communications with employees in the event of an emergency such as pandemic influenza. Please read the memo below and be advised that e-mail is one of the many ways that the state will communicate with us, should a real emergency situation occur.
Seasonal influenza information
Seasonal influenza has now begun in Wisconsin and normally lasts at least through late April. On average, about 5% to 20% of the population will get the seasonal flu.
The single best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year. Flu activity typically does not reach its peak until January or February so it is not too late to get the shot. There are several other simple steps you can take to limit the spread of the seasonal flu: wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, cover your cough, get adequate sleep, exercise and eat a balanced diet.
As basic as these steps appear, these measures represent concrete actions that you can take to reduce transmission of seasonal flu. Ask and encourage your family members to follow these steps to reduce the likelihood that they will get the seasonal flu or give it to others. For more information about seasonal flu go the Wisconsin Department of Health Services Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Internet page at http://dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/influenza/index.htm.
Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s typical for new, but related strains of seasonal flu viruses to appear each year.
Pandemic Influenza Information
An influenza pandemic occurs when a totally new or novel flu virus emerges and starts spreading as easily as normal flu by coughing and sneezing. Because the virus is new, people have no immunity. This means that many more people will likely become ill with pandemic flu and may be sicker than with normal flu.
The United States Government has encouraged states to prepare pandemic continuity plans, provide employees with information about pandemic flu and the steps the state is taking in anticipation of a potential pandemic.
The State of Wisconsin has developed Continuity of Operations (COOP) pandemic plans to protect the health of state employees and maintain operations during a pandemic. One important component of these plans is identifying ways of communicating with employees in the event of a pandemic. Wisconsin has identified e-mail as one method of communication.
If health officials determine that a pandemic could break out in the near future in the United States, you will receive an e-mail message stating that your agency has entered an “alert period.” This period will be an opportunity for agencies to finalize, update and test their COOP pandemic plans. If a pandemic actually begins, you will receive a similar e-mail message stating that your agency has entered an “action period.” During this time, agencies will activate their COOP pandemic plans and inform employees of protective steps they should take. Such steps may include avoiding close physical contact with others and infection control measures such as staying home when ill, covering a cough and washing hands frequently. During the course of a pandemic, employees may receive additional e-mail messages providing updates and further guidance.
Additional back-up communications tools are also being put in place, and you will be advised of those as necessary. This message is also being sent as part of a state-wide drill to test the e-mail communication process. You need not respond to this message in any way.
More information about pandemic influenza and steps you and your family can take to be prepared can be found at http://pandemic.wisconsin.gov.