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Avian flu pandemic simulation

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    Avian flu pandemic simulation

    ? Health officials: Working together on a regional basis


    Health officials and emergency responders from Lake, McHenry and Winnebago counties took stock in their ability to deal with an outbreak of bird flu during a day-long simulation exercise Monday.

    The "tabletop exercise" was held at the Holiday Inn in Crystal Lake, where participants dealt with a fictional pandemic outbreak of avian flu that was spreading rapidly and had the capacity to cause serious illness and death even among healthy adults.

    The exercise assumed that about 35 percent of the Illinois population would become infected during the first wave of the outbreak, and that about 69,000 residents would require hospitalization.

    The goals of the exercise included assessing local and regional response with regard to communication among agencies and with the public, the ability of health providers to deal with the sudden surge of patients, quarantine issues and the distribution of vaccine when it becomes available.

    "I think the general consensus is that the exercise went really well," said Dr. Victor Plotkin, an epidemiologist with the Lake County Health Department. "It was the first time the three counties got together and I think we need to continue working together on a regional basis."

    Plotkin said the exercise identified several areas in which officials still need to refine pandemic planning efforts, including vaccine distribution, communication protocols.

    Lake County officials announced earlier this year that they are exploring the use of local polling places for distribution of medicine in the event of a pandemic or terrorist emergency.