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Our view: Fight influenza with information

Duluth City Councilor Todd Fedora suffers from asthma, a chronic condition, and is following the spread of the H1N1 virus as closely as anyone. "We oftentimes hear about what our nation is doing, in terms of preparation, or what our state is doin...

Duluth City Councilor Todd Fedora suffers from asthma, a chronic condition, and is following the spread of the H1N1 virus as closely as anyone.

"We oftentimes hear about what our nation is doing, in terms of preparation, or what our state is doing," Fedora wrote the News Tribune Opinion Page yesterday in response to an editorial urging calm and simple precautions in the face of swine flu hysteria.

But what about locally? What's being done in Duluth and in the Northland to prepare for the possibility of a widespread flu outbreak this fall and winter? Fedora wanted to know, so he called for a City Council committee of the whole meeting on the topic.

That meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday in City Council Chambers, and, unlike most committee of the whole meetings, it will be broadcast on PACT-TV. So anyone who can't get there can still get informed.

"Fire Chief [John] Strongitharm has assembled a strong panel of presenters to learn about what our community is doing to prepare for this virus," Fedora said.

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He couldn't have been more astute. The list of participants includes Curt Conrad of the Duluth school district, which stands to be as affected as any entity, considering how the swine flu has been targeting young people; Dr. Linda Van Etta of St. Luke's hospital and John Jordon of SMDC Health System, both facing the prospect of being inundated with new patients; Jim Gangle from the St. Louis County Health Department; and Scott Camps of St. Louis County Emergency Management.

There are many ways each of us can help prevent the spread of flu: sneezing and coughing into our shirt sleeves to stop germs from flying, washing hands often and thoroughly to kill germs, staying home when we're ill, and getting vaccinated.

We also can get informed. The state of Minnesota's mdhflu.com Web site and the federal government's flu.gov site are great places to start. Another great place for information -- local information -- is Monday's Duluth City Council committee of the whole meeting. Anyone who can't get there in person can still tune in on public-access television.

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