(08/25/2006)
By Drew Moody
drewmoody@verizon.net

See also   wvmountainsun.com

Experts believe it's not a matter of "if," but when.

What makes a pandemic flu so deadly is because the virus is NEW. As such there are no vaccines to prevent it and everyone is susceptible.

The pandemic virus is more virulent than a garden variety type of flu.

Experts recommend stocking up on basic necessities including food, water and medicine in the event there is a mass disruption in services.

The public is advised to stay current on flu and pneumonia vaccines, believing both may help to some degree.

The 1918-19 Spanish Flu was the worst historic pandemic outbreak. According to the PBS website almost 700,000 people died in the U.S. alone.

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION

An alert from the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the most recent H1N5 avian flu death Monday.

The Ministry of Health in Indonesia reported the country's 59th case of human infection with the disease.

The case occurred in a 35-year-old woman from a remote village. She developed symptoms on August 8, was hospitalized with severe respiratory disease August 17 and died shortly after admission.

She is the third confirmed case from that area to be reported in the past week.

The WHO defines a pandemic flu: An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in several, simultaneous epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness.

WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT

Don't expect the government to help you.

Don't count on medical care being available.

The entire country may be temporarily paralyzed.

Food may not be readily available for a period of time.

There's no guarantee you'll have water, electricity or heat.

No vaccine for the specific illness will be available for months.

Expect quarantines.

Up to 40-percent of the workforce will be affected.

Hundreds of thousands will die in the U.S.

Although health care has improved in past decades, epidemiological models from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, USA project predict 2 to 7.4 million deaths globally.

PUBLIC MEETING AT RECREATION CENTER

The overwhelming message was, "Prepare for the worse, and hope for the best."

A multi-agency public meeting was held Monday (Aug. 21) at the Gilmer County Recreational Center to alert the public of the consequences of a pandemic flu outbreak, should one occur.

About 50 people attended.

Several speakers addressed the crowd, explaining the differences between a regular (seasonal) flu and a pandemic flu outbreak.

Bob Posey, regional epidemiologist with the Bureau of Public Health was featured speaker. Sharon Kesselring of the American Red Cross in Parkersburg attended, and briefly addressed the crowd.

Donna Waddell, of Family Resources Network, gave a presentation giving basic advice on how to prepare for disasters.

Jack Heater, of the Gilmer County Health Department, coordinated the event.

Posey told the crowd we are overdue for a pandemic flu outbreak. He warned the current avian flu, H5N1 as health professionals refer to it, may not be the one that turns into a pandemic. Another virus could appear, virtually out of nowhere.

The 'attack rate,' of a pandemic flu will be severe. Up to 35-percent of the population may get it. Pandemic flu outbreaks have a "second wave" of infection 3-12 months after the initial outbreak, Posey told the group.

He believes alternative care facilities will be required due to the large numbers of people who are ill. These facilities will be reminiscent of early 1900s wards where people were laid row-after-row in cots.

He highly recommends keeping current on flu and pneumonia shots.

"In an influenza outbreak, help won't come," as he urged everyone to make preparations for this likely pending disaster.

WADDELL ENCOURAGES PREPARATION

Donna Waddell encourages people to create a sensible supply of necessary items.

A minimum of a two week supply of food is recommended, and 1-gallon of water per person per day for cooking and drinking, she said.

Don't forget about your pets, and talk to your pharmacist about prescription needs in advance of an outbreak.

Waddell recommends plenty of canned foods and items like granola bars because such items don't require cooking.

It's also a good idea to reacquaint yourself with a good plan of how to avoid spreading germs. "A 10-percent bleach solution in water will kill about anything," Waddell said.

RED CROSS ECHOS WARNINGS

"We're going to have to count on ourselves," Sharon Kesselring, Emergency Services Director, Parkersburg Chapter of the American Red Cross, said. "Travel will get restricted pretty quick," she predicted.

A continuity of operations plan will be required for businesses, schools, cities, county governments and health care facilities to keep operating.

"We need to make sure the community understands the need to prepare for this," she said.

COUNTY EMERGENCY PLAN OFFERS GRIM DETAILS

The working Gilmer County pandemic flu plan is unofficial as it has not been signed by all parties involved, but it offers even greater insight into the wide-spread impact of a pandemic event.

In the event a State of Emergency is declared, state and federal resources will be exhausted, exceeding the capacity of all support systems, according to the document.

The expectation is it would take more than six months to produce an adequate supply of vaccine to protect citizens in the U.S.

Locally, there have been rumors of site selections for mass burials. The document indicates mortuary services will be overwhelmed and recommends "local planning for surge capacity." The plan indicates crews will have to assist funeral homes for burials, cremations and refrigeration of the dead.

It also indicates there will be a limited ability to provide basic public health and safety needs, such as a likely diminished capacity to respond to fires or chemical spills.

Medical care will be limited and / or unavailable. Hospitals may be forced to discharge all but the most critically ill patients. Alternative care facilities will be necessary, although it assumes families will care for their ill at home.

Furthermore, the plan says that quarantine measures will be ineffective once the virus is well-established. A plan of "social distancing" will be the second strategy. This may include closing all public gathering places including churches, theaters, stadiums, schools, etc... The document suggests the stress and trauma to the community will be severe.

Schools may be utilized for mass health care facilities, victim assistance centers or morgues locations.

The military could be called in to secure the implementation of the emergency plan. Police and military will have full authority to enforce travel restrictions.

LINKS TO ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

www.wvflu.org

www.who.int

www.cdc.gov

www.thepharmvoice.com

www.pbs.org

www.who.int/en/

pandemicflu.gov


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