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Gov. Gregoire speaks at Pandemic Flu Summit

For Immediate Release: September 8, 2009

SEATAC – Gov. Chris Gregoire today joined community, business and government leaders at the 2009 Washington State Pandemic Influenza Summit to discuss the state’s preparations for a significant H1N1 flu outbreak this fall.

“We don’t want to frighten people, yet health experts are concerned that an outbreak this fall may be longer and more severe than the one this spring,” Gregoire said. “If we all take this flu seriously and work together, we can keep our communities healthy. Schools should talk with parents about keeping sick kids home; businesses need to make sure sick employees stay home. And we’re all counting on health agencies to monitor this new flu and keep us informed on the best ways to stay healthy.”

Representatives from nearly 60 different agencies and organizations attended today’s summit. Topics ranged from H1N1 vaccination strategies, to how H1N1 might impact communities, and how vital information about the virus will be communicated to the public.

“H1N1 could affect all of us. One of the best things we can do to prepare is to make sure families, schools, and businesses have the facts they need to make the best decisions possible,” said Secretary of Health Mary Selecky. “Today’s meeting was an opportunity to make sure these leaders know the latest information, have the tools they can use to plan for this new flu, and to ask for their help getting this information out to everyone who needs it.”

In June, Gregoire authorized $700,000 in emergency funding to buy extra supplies of antiviral medications that can help people who are hit hard by the virus. Those supplies are already here and are ready to use if needed. Washington is also using federal money to bolster preparations for flu season, promote prevention and good health habits, and get ready to efficiently respond to whatever the flu season brings.

“I’ve asked Secretary Selecky to work closely with General Timothy Lowenberg, as well as with businesses, schools, and local governments to prepare for the possibility of widespread illness in our state,” Gregoire said. “We’re working together to ensure the state has a well coordinated, systematic, and effective response.”

The Department of Health is working closely with the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction to inform all Washington state K-12 students and their families about H1N1 prevention. The department has created a Web site with detailed information about swine flu in multiple languages, including information about home care, the latest on vaccine availability, and frequently asked questions. For more information, visit: http://www.doh.wa.gov/swineflu/.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on an H1N1 vaccine, which is expected to be ready in mid-October. When it’s available, the most vulnerable people — children, pregnant women, those who work with kids, health care providers, and those under 50 with chronic medical conditions — will receive the vaccine first.