Friday, October 30, 2009

DCH Partners with Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness

State Promotes Healthy Living in Homeless and Emergency Shelters

The Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) and the Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness, Inc. (GCEH) have partnered to raise awareness of flu prevention among the state's homeless population. The outreach is being launched during Homeless Awareness Week in Georgia, November 1-7, 2009.

"We applaud GCEH for getting involved and advocating for the homeless in Georgia," said Dr. Rhonda Medows, DCH Commissioner and State Health Officer. "Our collective mission to ensure the health and overall wellbeing of Georgia's homeless can impact the lives of the men, women and children living in shelters or temporary housing in

The homeless population is diverse, transient, and includes single adults, children and families. Much of the homeless population resides in shelters, but over 40 percent are unsheltered. In addition, events such as acts of nature (e.g., floods, tornadoes and hurricanes), reduce access to everyday resources. Disease outbreaks such as the 2009 H1N1 flu may contribute to a rapid increase in emergency shelter usage.

Therefore, the CDC's interim recommendations to reduce transmission of seasonal flu and the 2009 H1N1 flu in this group are critical.

"It is critical for all housing facilities to ensure that the best health and safety precautions are implemented to protect the families in their care," said Katheryn Preston, Executive Director, Georgia Coalition to End Homelessness, Inc. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends general guidelines for homeless and emergency shelters to prevent the spread of disease, and DCH and GCEH are promoting these recommendations through educational pamphlets and prevention messages."

The CDC recommendations are:

1. Encourage all persons within the shelter to cover their cough or sneeze with a tissue. Throw all tissues in the trash after use. Maintain good hand hygiene by washing with running water and soap, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth;

2. Make the means for appropriate hand cleansing is readily available within the shelter, including common food preparation and dining areas. Ideal means for hand cleansing include, running water, soap, and hand drying machines. Paper towels and waste baskets should be made available. Shelter staff, volunteers and clients should frequently wash their hands with soap and water, or use a hand sanitizer if hand washing with soap and water is not possible;

3. Shelters should follow standard precautions in the shelter settings. This includes training staff in the control of infectious diseases, providing access to personal protective equipment and apparel,
and encouraging proper hand washing; and

4. Clean all common areas within the shelter routinely and immediately with the cleaning agents normally used in these areas. Items that are often in contact with respiratory droplets and hands (e.g., doorknobs, faucets, etc.,) should be cleaned and disinfected regularly. Eating utensils should be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with detergent and water. Cups and utensils should not be shared until after washing.

For a copy of the Homeless and Emergency Shelters - Protect Yourself Against Seasonal Flu and 2009 H1N1 brochure, visit;

A complete list of the Interim Guidance for Homeless and Emergency Shelters on the H1N1 virus can be found at
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