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  • State flu experts encourage public preparedness

    State flu experts encourage public preparedness

    Monday, June 12, 2006

    The message stressed by presenters at Thursday’s Pandemic Flu Summit in Princeton was one of prevention and precaution, not panic.

    The threat of avian influenza, particularly the H5N1 strain, is one that is not currently present in North America, according to information presented at the summit, held at the Area 2 State Fire/Rescue Training Center and sponsored by the Pennyrile District Health Department.

    Preparedness for a flu pandemic, though, will pay off during regular seasonal flu outbreaks, said Dr. William Hacker, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health.

    Thursday’s summit, he said, is one of 48 held in Kentucky since February. More than 100 attended.

    “No state that I’m aware of has had more involvement at the community level,” Hacker said.

    Hacker distinguished between epidemic and pandemic flu.

    In a flu epidemic, “there’s more of it than you normally see,” he said.

    In a pandemic, the virus is often present worldwide, and usually in a new strain. “Therefore, all the people in the world are susceptible.”

    Flu pandemics tend to occur three to four times each century, or roughly every 25 to 35 years.

    The last pandemic was recorded in 1968, so the time could be right for a new one to occur, he said, and scientists are monitoring the bird flu as a potential threat.

    The H5N1 strain of bird flu has been monitored for about nine years, he said. After originating in southeast Asia, the virus has since spread into Turkey and parts of Europe.

    It has also been identified in Siberia and would most likely enter North America through Alaska.

    The virus cannot currently be spread from human to human, Hacker said. A direct mutation into a virus that can be transmitted human to human is possible, though.

    Another possibility is a mutated virus transmitted through infected pigs.

    A pig, Hacker said, is capable of getting both the bird flu and traditional human flu viruses.

    If both were to infect a pig, the viruses could end up mixing and mutate into a strain capable of human-to-human contagion.

    Were such a pandemic to occur in Kentucky, health officials estimate between 3,000 and 7,000 deaths and between 9,200 and 21,400 hospitalizations.

    A pandemic is not preventable and could last between six and eight weeks, with multiple waves of the illness occurring in that timeframe, he said.

    Should a pandemic occur, prior planning would serve to reduce the flu’s impact in the state, he added.

    The state, he said, has had a written response plan in place since 2003, and that plan is constantly being updated.

    Planning, though, must also occur at home and at work, throughout the community, he said.

    “We need everybody planning, not just doctors and nurses and public health people.”

    Hacker encouraged frequent hand-washing as a primary line of defense against germs.

    He also recommended families keep food staples on hand and rotate those supplies twice a year.

    During the peak of a flu pandemic, a projected 30 percent of the state’s workforce will be home sick or taking care of sick family members, so aid and assistance may be slow in coming.

    “The cavalry may be home with the flu, too,” he said.

    A flu pandemic does not appear imminent at this time, he said, but residents should be ready for it, as well as any other potential emergency.

    “Don’t panic, but get prepared,” he said.

    The crowd also heard from Dr. Sue Billings, with the Office of the State Veterinarian, who discussed the flu’s potential impact on the state’s bird population.

    Bird flu viruses are classified into two groups, she said: highly pathogenic and low pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI and LPAI).

    LPAI strains pose no serious risk to humans and are frequent in waterfowl and shorebirds, common in gulls and terns, occasionally occur in marine birds and ratites (ostriches, emus, etc.), and are rare in cranes, songbirds and raptors.

    LPAI viruses can mutate to HPAI viruses, though, after being introduced into groups of poultry, she said.

    Several HPAI strains have caused serious illness in humans who had direct contact with infected birds.

    The H5N1 strain is a HPAI virus with a 50 percent human mortality rate. More than 200 cases have been documented thus far. Most had direct contact with birds or bird products; no human to human spread has been documented.

    Billings assured the crowd that all domestic poultry is well-inspected, and eating poultry would still be safe, even if the virus was identified in the U.S.

    “You cannot get this virus from eating chicken if it is properly cooked,” she said.

    Judy Donley, representing the Mid-West Kentucky Chapter of the American Red Cross, offered information on preparedness and the role of the Red Cross in a pandemic flu response.

    “Our success is going to be based on an informed and responsive community,” she said.

  • #2
    Re: State flu experts encourage public preparedness

    Originally posted by hawkeye

    A pandemic is not preventable and could last between six and eight weeks, with multiple waves of the illness occurring in that timeframe, he said.

    Should a pandemic occur, prior planning would serve to reduce the flu’s impact in the state, he added.

    The state, he said, has had a written response plan in place since 2003, and that plan is constantly being updated.

    Planning, though, must also occur at home and at work, throughout the community, he said.

    “We need everybody planning, not just doctors and nurses and public health people.”

    Hacker encouraged frequent hand-washing as a primary line of defense against germs.

    He also recommended families keep food staples on hand and rotate those supplies twice a year.

    During the peak of a flu pandemic, a projected 30 percent of the state’s workforce will be home sick or taking care of sick family members, so aid and assistance may be slow in coming.
    Ok, let me see if I get this right...
    1) A pandemic is not preventable, and
    2) a written response plan has been in place since 2003,

    and all they can come up with for public preparedness is
    a) frequent hand-washing, and
    b) families should keep food staples on hand.

    Seems a bit weak, no?

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: State flu experts encourage public preparedness

      I think the point was to raise the awareness to the possibility of a H5N1 pandemic.

      At this time the public seems not to realize that a pandemic is a potential threat.

      Many communities are playing "catch up" on preparedness. This is why our site is so important as a vehicle for the world's citizens.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: State flu experts encourage public preparedness

        I think Florida1 is probably right...not to mention most "plans" emphasis the same basics. It's probably a template they all share.

        BTW: It seems like there have been more an more statements by individual states regarding they're preparedness plans.

        -hawkeye

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: State flu experts encourage public preparedness

          Originally posted by hawkeye
          I think Florida1 is probably right...not to mention most "plans" emphasis the same basics. It's probably a template they all share.

          BTW: It seems like there have been more an more statements by individual states regarding they're preparedness plans.

          -hawkeye
          Of course, you are both correct. I hope they are able to get up to speed fast enough to provide worthwhile advice.

          Since FEMA superseded the old civil defense system, public preparedness has taken a back burner. Its time for it to be taken seriously once again. That movement needs to come from the grass roots (not from a patronizing bureaucracy.)

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: State flu experts encourage public preparedness

            NY1 -

            Whether the equipment is back from Iraq is of no consequence. There are many resources in many states, both public and private that can be used.

            The purpose of the meetings is to obtain support from the average citizen. Only average citizens, acting together, can defeat this threat.

            No government, federal or state, has the resources to address this problem without the "hands on" support of the populace.

            We must, now, act with our neighbors to plan, collect, and adapt to the idea of a potential pandemic.

            NY1 - What are you doing in your community to help with this effort? Being prepared will alleviate panic.
            Last edited by sharon sanders; June 12th, 2006, 04:43 PM. Reason: typo

            Comment

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