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Area health officials eye flu pandemic threat

POSTED: July 26, 2008 5:00 a.m.
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Download a detailed Georgia's Influenza Pandemic Preparedness Plan here.

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Thursday morning, county and Coastal Health district officials gathered at the Fraser Center in Hinesville to discuss the proper course of action if the district were to be affected by a flu or avian flu pandemic. The tabletop exercise, which is being held in every county in the state, was hosted by the Coastal Health District and had an "excellent turnout," according to Annette Neu, who led the group's discussion.
A registered nurse and director of emergency preparedness and response for the district, Neu opened the exercise with general information about the nature of a flu pandemic.
"There are 36,000 deaths every year in the United States due to the seasonal flu," Neu said. But a pandemic would mean spiking death tolls, mirroring the worldwide "Spanish" flu pandemic of 1918. "There would be upwards of 85,000 deaths nationwide, and the economic impact would be over $100 billion."
Georgia has been mandated by the federal government to develop a state plan for dealing with a flu outbreak, and those present at yesterday's gathering seemed to be doing their part to stay informed and to understand necessity and protocol.
"This is a time to come together and to talk about what could happen if this situation were to occur here in Hinesville," Neu said. She then read a scenario to the group, outlining the steps of an avian flu outbreak near Fort Stewart. "Respond to this exercise as if the scenario were real," she said. "Play the role of your department, agency or community."
From public information officer Sally Silberman to interim emergency Management Leader Bob Sprinkle and from healthcare Department administrators to local daycare representatives, those present answered Neu's questions and asked more of each other, all in an effort to, as Neu said, "identify your individual and your agency's role in the response, identify any gaps in the emergency operations plan, and know how to contact your community."
  
 

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