Peace Corps Monitoring 2009 H1N1 Flu Virus in Mexico and Worldwide

Agency responding proactively to ensure Volunteers\' good health

WASHINGTON, D.C., May 1, 2009 - Peace Corps continues its efforts to ensure the safety of its Volunteers serving in Mexico and worldwide following the outbreak of the 2009 H1N1 flu virus in Mexico and worldwide this past week. Acting Director Jody K. Olsen confirmed that all 57 Volunteers and trainees serving in Mexico have been contacted and advised of the situation and the precautions they should take, and all Volunteers are well.

Peace Corps is closely monitoring the 2009 H1N1 flu virus, and Peace Corps staff and Volunteers worldwide have been advised of the situation, and of precautions they should take. We are pleased to report that there have been no reported cases of H1N1 within the Peace Corps community.

Said Olsen, "The health and wellness of our Volunteers is of prime importance to Peace Corps. In response to the 2009 H1N1 flu virus, Peace Corps has a pandemic influenza plan in place that provides for dissemination of timely information to Volunteers and staff, including precautions that should be taken by those at risk. Peace Corps continues to work with health officials in the U.S., Mexico and elsewhere to monitor the situation and will take appropriate action to ensure our Volunteers\' safety."

The acting secretary of HHS has declared a public health emergency. This is a precautionary measure employed by HHS when a public health emergency exists that affects or has significant potential to affect national security. The Peace Corps agency response to this declared public health emergency involves three components: contingency plans, dissemination of up-to-date information, and implementation.

Peace Corps staff in Washington, including a full-time epidemiologist, is working with the Department of State, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and others to monitor the situation and to ensure that, as an organization, we are ready to respond to any eventuality.

As part of its agency-wide response to emergency situations, Peace Corps has developed plans to respond to an influenza outbreak and has anti-viral medications available which are effective in treating this particular flu strain. In addition, each Peace Corps program has an Emergency Action Plan specific to that country and developed in cooperation with Peace Corps Washington and the local U.S. Embassy. The plans are evaluated and tested frequently and information is updated accordingly. Volunteers are thoroughly trained in their roles and responsibilities, and posts are well-prepared for all emergencies.

For inquiries specific to Mexico, families may contact the Peace Corps/Mexico Desk with any questions or concerns they may have at 1-800-424-8580, Extension 2520 during business hours. For all other inquiries, the Office of Special Services maintains a 24-hour, 7 days a week duty system and can be reached at the following numbers: 1-800-424-8580, Extension 1470 or 202-692-1470. The Office of Special Services can also be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].

As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary, the agencys service legacy continues to promote peace and friendship around the world. Historically, over 195,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries in which they have served. Applications to serve in the Peace Corps have increased 16 percent this past year, the largest boost in the last five years. Currently, 7,876 Peace Corps Volunteers are serving in 76 countries. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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