Flu pandemic drill to test health department
By Joel Davis
of The Daily Times Staff
The Blount County Health Department is prepared to act quickly in the event of a flu pandemic or other health emergency, but would it be quick enough?
Bonnie Hinds, Tennessee Department of Health public information officer, said that the test of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness planned for Monday is meant to answer that question.
"We conduct routine exercises to make sure our level of readiness is what it needs to be for a quick response to any issue," she said
The local health department is seeking volunteers to play the part of patients seeking medical care during the drill, which will be held from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m.
As part of the exercise, a mass dispensing site will open at William Blount High School to test the county's ability to distribute medications to the population in response to a potential emergency situation.
The dispensing site will also test to see how many people can be run through the site in a given time, and if the process needs to be revised to accommodate different populations, such as the elderly and the physically handicapped.
"We're testing our ability to do that in a timely fashion," Hinds said. "That's what we'll actually be doing at William Blount High School."
The upcoming exercise will test the health department's ability to manage the Strategic National Stockpile. This is a program within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that is responsible for distributing vital drugs, vaccines, medical equipment and supplies to the site of a national emergency such as a natural disaster, terrorist attack or disease outbreak.
According to the CDC Web site, the Strategic National Stockpile has large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency, such as terrorist attack, flu outbreak, earthquake, severe enough to cause local supplies to run out.
Once federal and local authorities agree that the SNS is needed, medicines will be delivered to any state in the U.S. within 12 hours. Each state has plans to receive and distribute SNS medicine and medical supplies to local communities as quickly as possible.
Locally, Volunteers are needed to go through the dispensing site as patients. No training is necessary and the success of the exercise may depend heavily on the amount of participation. Please contact the Blount County Health Department at 983-4582 for information on how to volunteer.
A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity, and for which there is no vaccine. The disease spreads easily person to person and can sweep across the country and around the world in very short time.
A strain of flu that infects birds, called avian flu, has caused concern because it shares characteristics with the Spanish flu that killed 2 million people in the U.S. in 1918.
Originally published: June 29. 2008 3:01AM