Fort Stewart prepares for flu pandemic

By Lynda Figueredo - bioemail

FORT STEWART, GA (WTOC) - Fort Stewart medical leaders are preparing for a possiblility of a flu pandemic.

Thursday morning dentists and doctors at Fort Stewart worked together in a flu pandemic exercise that will help them be better prepared to save lives.

"My head killing me. My throat is so sore," said a patient.

The aches and pains, some of the symptoms that come along with having the flu.

About 50 Fort Stewart soldiers and medical staff lined up early to get medical attention as part of a flu pandemic exercise.

"It does sound like you have early onset flu," said a doctor.

While the illnesses are fake, the situation can be real.

"So what we are concerned about in the future is such things as the bird flu, which is 70 percent lethal combining with the swine flu which is very transmittable," said Public Health Emergency Officer Shannon Ellis. "So the worse case scenario, the kinda perfect storm would be a virus that can be transmitted and is very lethal."

That is why medical leaders at Fort Stewart have set up an exercise to see how a dental clinic can be used as a triage clinic to help with the overflow of patients, if a flu pandemic were to happen.

"I think it is great we can practice now in case the real thing occurs," said General Dentist Dr. Rodney R. Richards Jr. "We would know exactly what our roles would be and how to handle the situation."

"During a real pandemic the hospital nurses would be overwhelmed and we still want to take care of diabetic patients, heart patients and surgery's," said Dr. Ellis. "Without having this concept for patients to come here first, then the hospital would shut down essential services. It's important to keep operation of the hospital and to keep flu patients with flu patients and keep them from infecting people at the hospital."

So flu patients would be sent to a quarantined area in the dentist office first to determine what type of treatment they should receive.

Which in the end will help with overcrowding and help prevent the spread of disease.

Fort Stewart emergency officers hope that other army bases will learn from this exercise that allows the dentists to step in and help treat patients.

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