A flu that garners headlines long before flu season must be some kind of flu.

A flu that garners headlines long before flu season must be some kind of flu.

H1N1, labeled a global threat by the World Health Organization, continues to be a major concern, as The Columbus Dispatch showed last week with a front-page story on preparations being made to deal with what also is called swine flu.

Northland-area residents can get some protection, prevention and planning pointers at a Sept. 22 neighborhood meeting being put on by the Maize Morse Tri Area Civic Association. The gathering, which is open to the public, will run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Maize Road Baptist Church, 4251 Maize Road.

The guest speakers will be registered nurse Janie Van Gilder, emerging infectious diseases and pandemic influenza educator with Columbus Public Health, and Joyce Bourgalt, executive director of the two-year-old Helping Hands Free Clinic, 1421 Morse Road.

"Knowledge, that's just what it's all about," Bourgalt said last week.

The purpose of the meeting, according to Maize Morse Tri Area Civic Association newsletter editor Diane Hendrickson, is to:

Explore the basic dynamics of protecting yourself and your community in this flu pandemic.

Explore pandemic influenza planning and preparedness for your home, workplace and community.

Identify and describe the strategies of "Ready in 3" for application in emergency events.

Van Gilder, as a member of the Columbus Public Health Pandemic Flu Division, is reaching out to neighborhood organizations as part of an extensive education effort, according to spokesman Jose Rodriguez.

The division's planning could eventually lead to the "largest mass vaccination effort the community has seen," he said. Anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 people could be getting shots to prevent swine flu, Rodriguez said.

As of last week, H1N1 was blamed for 477 deaths in the United States, one of them in Ohio, and more than 7,500 hospitalizations, 48 in Ohio and 14 in Franklin County, according to The Dispatch.

"The swine flu's a pandemic flu, which means it's not just nationwide it's worldwide," Bourgalt said. "Swine flu can mutate very easily, also, into a more complicated form, so there is reason to be cautious and be prepared for it.

"There's no government big enough to cover all disasters, and we all need to be trained and prepared ourselves on how to deal with anything that comes across."

kparks@thisweeknews.com

A closer look