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Afton ready for 'swine flu'

Ever since the H1N1 Virus, or Swine Flu, has taken to the streets, Americans are concerned for the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. For international pandemics such as this, everyone is turning to their officials and their city to help prepare them for the worst. In Afton's case, they are turning to their Public Health Preparedness Plan.

Afton's Public Health Preparedness Plan, which was approved in December by the City Council, was drafted by Afton's Community Health Emergency Preparedness Committee, which has since dissolved.

Since the H1N1 virus has come to light, Afton has received few phone calls from concerned residents, but that hasn't stopped them from preparing.

"So far, very few people have called with questions or concerns," Connie Slaten, office manager for Afton city hall, said. "Most people seem to be taking it in stride."

Afton officials and staff have been running through the preparedness plan so that they are well-versed in the actions and precautions to take in every level of severity.

The preparedness plan aims to address all concerns for the city and its residents in the case of a flu pandemic, much like the one currently.

With the recent probable first Washington County case of the flu in Hugo, more and more people are planning for if the worst should happen.

So far, the city has been checking regularly with Washington County and the Minnesota Center for Disease Control and Prevention for the most up to date information. The city is also running through their preparedness plan so they are ready for anything.

Before Afton should even declare a local emergency, residents should be preparing in their own homes in the case of an emergency.

The plan advises residents to take several precautions to help better prepare themselves and their family. Some of these preparations include storing up to two weeks worth of food and water, periodically checking prescription and non-prescription drugs to verify that you have enough on hand and talking with family members about your own preparedness plan.

One of the simplest ways to prepare for a pandemic will be to teach children early on, and remember yourself, to wash hands frequently with soap and water and to cover sneezes and coughs with tissues.

In the case that a local emergency should be declared, under the preparedness plan, City Hall, and city officials and staff will continually try to keep offering services to residents to the best of their abilities. The extent of their ability will be based on how severe the emergency is and whether they need to possibly work from their residences rather than from City Hall.

If city staff and officials are still able to work out of city hall, staff will be encouraged to carry various sanitizing chemicals and gloves to help ward off the virus the best of their ability.

Afton mayor, Pat Snyder, and the rest of the city council said they feel that they are adequately prepared for a pandemic if it should find it's way to their small town.

Former mayor Julia Welter was involved in helping drafting the preparedness plan, and she too believes that Afton is well prepared to combat any potential health threats.

"I believe Afton is well prepared to interface with other agencies and handle communication and services internally," she said. "As a small city with limited staff, all efforts will be made to keep residents informed regarding changes in service."

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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