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NEWS | May 3, 2010

Base's effort helped keep H1N1 cases from growing significantly during last year

By Sean Bowlin 502nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs OL-B

A little more than a year after Randolph Air Force Base's medical clinic helped to diagnose two teenagers with H1N1, or swine influenza, two clinic physicians spearheading the base's subsequent H1N1 prevention regimen said what kept the situation from worsening was a tremendous, highly-cooperative team effort.

Col. (Dr.) Greg York, 359th Medical Group deputy commander, and Maj.(Dr.) Susannah Simone, 359th MDOS officer-in-charge of the immunization clinic, explained that after the initial diagnoses, the teamwork began when base information channels, through Randolph-based public affairs units, were instrumental in informing Airmen, civilians and family members about immunization schedules, what to do if they had flu-like symptoms and proper techniques to stop H1N1's spread -- like covering coughs and hand-washing procedures.

"The big thing was publicity - on the base Web site, the marquee and in the base paper. We invested a lot of time in a huge publicity effort and Airmen, families and civilian workers on the base took the precautionary measures seriously," Major Simone said, adding that throughout base workplaces, people were using hand sanitizers and heeding signs that appeared in rest rooms about proper hand-washing.

"As a result, we didn't have to close our schools and the spikes in H1N1 cases did decline. Overall, it was a base-wide success story," she added.

Major Simone also said there is still much base-wide adherence to those basic personal sanitary procedures as a result, and there were only a few spikes in H1N1 cases during last May, October, November and in January, 2010.

"And looking at those jumps, they were almost logarithmically smaller," she explained.

The major also said the immunization effort on Randolph was very thorough and intense, characterized by inoculations given in the base theater, at individual squadrons and in remote geographically-separate units. This was during a time when demand for the vaccine was at its highest, which was eventually abated by the Air Force being aided by getting permission to use vaccine stocks provided by the state of Texas. Colonel York added that as a result, Randolph's immunization effort for active-duty Airmen exceeded Air Force and Air Education and Training Command goals and was completed prior to the deadline of March 1.

Another piece of the teamwork puzzle fit in when the Air Force mandated that all base youth program workers had to be vaccinated, Colonel York added. Compliance with that directive helped keep young children, who are most vulnerable to that flu strain, from contracting it and spreading it among the base's population.

Major Simone said that vaccinations for H1N1 are still available and encourages children to come in for their school vaccines. For more information, call 652-3975.