KOIN Alert Detail

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

KOIN Alert - Recent Flooding and H1N1 (Swine Flu) Update

We wanted to keep you informed with public health information regarding the recent flooding and pandemic H1N1 (swine) flu situation.

Public Health Flooding Issues:

The Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) has issued home safety guidelines to aid Kentuckians left with water damage in their homes due to large amounts of water run-off and flooding throughout the state. Public health concerns include mold removal and prevention, and proper food handling and storage. 

Mold can accumulate in homes affected by flood/water damage. Molds grow best in warm, damp and humid conditions and spreads by making spores.  

To recognize the signs of mold, look for discolored walls possibly showing water damage, or green or black spots apparent on walls. Mold also has a musty, earthy smell or a foul stench. Allergy sufferers tend to be most affected by mold exposure.

To decrease exposure and reduce mold in the home, DPH recommends that homeowners keep the humidity level of the home between 40 and 60 percent. The use of an air conditioner or dehumidifier may be used to achieve a lower level of humidity. Always use exhaust fans when showering and cooking. Mold inhibitors for paint are also available from home improvement stores.

When cleaning up small areas affected by mold, use protective glasses or goggles. DPH also recommends wearing rubber boots and waterproof gloves, and wash clothing afterwards. If there is a heavy mold growth area, you may wish to use a basic respirator or suitable mask to prevent breathing the spores.

Other recommendations include:
     − Ensure that the area is well ventilated before beginning.
     − Remove all previously soaked porous items that have been wet for more than 48 hours and are not able to be cleaned and dried.
     − Hard surfaces may be cleaned using a cloth dampened with warm soapy water.
     − Contact a mold remediation consultant for severe mold cases.

Food Safety:

DPH staff also cautions people to keep food safety in mind if they have been affected by power outages. This includes keeping freezers closed to maintain the proper temperature for frozen foods. A full freezer will hold the temperature for approximately 48 hours and for 24 hours if the freezer is half full. A refrigerator will only hold its temperature for about four hours, meaning food items such as milk, dairy products, meats, eggs and leftovers should be placed in a cooler surrounded by ice if the outage lasts for more than four hours. Dry ice can be used to keep refrigerators cold. If the outage lasts for several days, 50 pounds of dry ice should preserve food in an 18-cubic foot full freezer for two days. (You must be careful when handling dry ice. Never touch dry ice with bare hands or breathe its vapors in an enclosed area. Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide, a gas. )

If left without power, purchase one or more coolers, ice and a digital, dial or instant-read food thermometer, DPH recommends. Public health guidelines also recommend keeping appliance thermometers in the refrigerator and freezer, no matter how long the power has been out. The refrigerator temperature should be 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below; the freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. Also try to limit the opening of freezer and refrigerator doors, even if an appliance has been out but returns to function within a couple of hours. If the freezer is not full, DPH strongly advises that poultry and meat items be grouped away from other foods to prevent juices from contaminating other items.

When the refrigerator and/or freezer are operating again, follow these guidelines to decide what to do with foods:
     − Refrigerated foods should be safe as long as power is out for no more than four hours.
     − Throw out any perishable food in your refrigerator, such as meat, poultry, lunchmeats, fish, dairy products, eggs and any prepared or cooked foods that have been above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for two hours. Bacteria can multiply to unsafe levels under these conditions.
     − Fresh fruits and vegetables are safe as long as they are still firm, and there is no evidence of mold or sliminess.
     − If an appliance thermometer was kept in the freezer, read the temperature when power comes back on. If the appliance thermometer stored in the freezer reads 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, the food is safe and may be refrozen.
     − If a thermometer has not been kept in the freezer, check each package of food to determine the safety.
     − If the food still contains ice crystals or is 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below, it is safe to refreeze.
     − Raw meats, poultry, cheese, juices, breads and pastries can be refrozen without losing too much food quality.
    − Prepared food, fish, vegetables and fruits in the freezer can be refrozen safely, but food quality may suffer.

To remove spills and freshen the freezer and refrigerator, DPH recommends washing with a solution of two tablespoons of baking soda dissolved in one quart of warm water. To absorb any lingering odors, place an open box or dish of baking soda in the appliance.

For more information about public health issues related to flooding, visit DPH’s mold site or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Web site.

H1N1 (Swine) Flu:

Public health officials are closely monitoring the current situation with the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic (worldwide outbreak). The CDC is not requiring states to maintain a count of swine flu cases because the numbers are hard to track and the illness has not been severe, but they estimate it to be well over one million people affected. The vaccine is currently being developed and tested. We have no additional information on this as of yet on when or where the vaccine will be available. A letter was sent to all school superintendents in Kentucky regarding the opening of schools and the H1N1 (swine) flu pandemic that is expected to intensify in the U.S. (attached).

Kentucky will hold a statewide Pandemic Influenza Summit on Sept. 3 at the Frankfort Convention Center. The summit will help private and public stakeholders prepare for any developments related to the novel H1N1 influenza strain (swine flu) during this year’s flu season, including a potential vaccination campaign. The summit seeks to bring together representatives from a wide range of sectors, including business, public and private K-12 education, secondary education, law enforcement and public safety organizations, health care workers, public health workers, other state agencies and faith-based organizations. Attendees will hear from public health experts about the current H1N1 situation and what to expect in the fall. Information will also be provided by representatives from schools, businesses, health care and public health agencies on current plans for response to pandemic flu and related preparedness activities. Breakout sessions will encourage in-depth exploration of these topics, and more. At the recent federal H1N1 Preparedness Summit, which brought together leaders from all 50 states and U.S. territories, states were encouraged to hold their own summits. Information on registration will be available soon. We will ensure that all KOIN members receive an invitation for this event.

For more information on swine flu, visit: flu.gov. Individuals can also visit healthalerts.ky.gov for information on H1N1 and Kentucky, or follow KYHealthAlerts on Twitter to be notified when new information is posted at the Web site.

We will keep you updated as more information is available.



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