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September 10, 2009

Re:  Urgent H1N1 Update

Dear Mayor:

At the request of Governor Jon Corzine and Heather Howard, Commissioner of the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHHS), I am forwarding this important advisory on the State’s efforts to deal with the resurgence of H1N1 this fall.  Please make sure this information is distributed to your Health Officials and appropriate Department Heads.  Also additional information can be found on the League of Municipalities Flu Resource Center.

Sincerely

Timothy McDonough
League President and
Mayor, Hope Township


This is to update you on H1N1 planning efforts for the State of New Jersey.  First, I want to assure you New Jersey is ready and prepared to handle the likely resurgence of H1N1 this fall.

Earlier this week, Governor Jon Corzine launched an aggressive initiative to keep children and families healthy and our schools and workplaces open for business.  Due to the Governor’s leadership on this important public health issue, New Jersey is better prepared to keep our children and families healthy.  In addition, our preparedness efforts will also allow the state’s economic engine to keep running and push us closer toward inevitable recovery.  Below is a brief outline of our completed tasks and important information for you to share with your constituencies.

In June, Governor Corzine directed the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to conduct a five-session pandemic planning summit for hospital officials and health and emergency management officials from every region of the state immediately.  Discussions have focused on New Jersey’s Pandemic Influenza Plan, lessons learned from the spring outbreak of H1N1 and vaccination planning. The final day of the summit is September 29. 

To ensure our schools are ready for H1N1, Governor Corzine directed state Education Commissioner Lucille Davy and I convened the New Jersey Educators Pandemic Summit in South Brunswick last week.  A total of 650 school superintendents attended.  School officials were given an overview of the state’s Pandemic Influenza Plan, and the most recent guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccination, school closures and continuity of education services.

To ensure our colleges and universities are prepared, I joined Marguerite Beardsley, acting executive director of the New Jersey Commission on Higher Education, to brief higher education officials on preparing for H1N1 to ensure facilities throughout the State are prepared for the fall.

In July, a delegation from the Corzine administration traveled to Bethesda, Maryland, to participate in the National Influenza Pandemic Summit, where I was joined by Commissioner Davy, New Jersey State Police Lt. Col. Jerome Hatfield and Joe Picciano, deputy director for New Jersey Homeland Security and Preparedness.  We were briefed on the importance of prevention and vaccine efforts at the federal level. 

Protecting the public health calls for all officials in government and education to focus on a uniform message.  The public needs to understand why it’s important to get vaccinated, why it’s important to stay home when sick, and why it’s critical to practice preventive hygiene.  These messages can never be repeated too often.  Local officials are trusted sources of information, so we will continue to update you with new information so you can be responsive to your communities. 

As we move forward in our planning and public awareness efforts, we encourage you to emphasize these measures when speaking to residents:

Wash hands frequently and thoroughly
Cover coughs and sneezes
Stay home from school or work if you are sick

We also ask that you encourage everyone to get a seasonal flu vaccine and H1N1 vaccine as soon as it becomes available.  Vaccine is the single most important measure to combat the spread of both seasonal and H1N1 influenza.  It’s important to note that uninsured residents will have access to H1N1 vaccine at no charge in public health flu clinics throughout the State.  Flu clinic locations will be posted on the State website.

Finally, we ask for your support in building preparedness locally.  Please consult with schools and employers in your jurisdiction now to ask about policies and communication efforts that could be implemented should the flu impact school or work obligations. 

For up-to-date and reliable information about the vaccine or any other information associated with H1N1, please direct people to the State’s H1N1 web page at: http://www.state.nj.us/health/er/h1n1/.

Thank you for your support on this important public health issue.  As always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (609) 633-3689.

Sincerely,

Heather Howard
Commissioner

 

 

 

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