Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Asian Flu Subject Of Health Department Presentation

Health Department Prepares For Avian Flu Emergency

LABELLE, FLORIDA (July 17, 2006) -- The Hendry Glades County Health Department will give a community presentation about the Avian Flu at the Dallas Townsend Agricultural Center on July 24 from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The Center is at 1085 Pratt Boulevard in LaBelle, across from the Health Department.

Pandemic Influenza Action Plan By The Department Of Health

An influenza (flu) pandemic occurs when a new and highly contagious strain of the virus emerges, potentially affecting populations worldwide. Historically, pandemics have occurred every 11 to 39 years; it has been more than 30 years since the last one. Many experts believe a flu pandemic is inevitable, but no one can know when it may occur.

In the event of a pandemic, preventive and therapeutic measures such as vaccines and antiviral agents, and antibiotics for treating secondary infections, could be in short supply. Medical facilities could be overburdened. A higher risk of exposure and illness of first responders might affect care of victims. Communications could be overwhelmed.

Partnering with other states and guided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Florida has developed a pandemic preparedness plan that addresses disease surveillance, emergency management, vaccine delivery, laboratory and communications activities and multi-agency response.

How is Florida Preparing for Avian Flu?

Florida has a very strong and robust surveillance system in place that is on alert to the potential for bird flu. "Sentinel physicians" report any unusual occurrences to the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) and the CDC. DOH laboratory facilities and staff have been increased, allowing for more timely diagnosis of avian flu should a case occur. FDOH also provides continuing education to EMS, hospital staff and private physicians, emphasizing the need to be alert for possible symptoms of bird flu coupled with overseas travel.

Full-time CDC personnel are assigned to the FDOH Headquarters to ensure rapid and clear communications between organizations. The CDC has also increased its personnel at the Miami Quarantine Station to provide services to the international ports of entry in Florida. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission provide bird surveillance services, and FDOH works closely with state and federal agricultural authorities who are responsible for the monitoring of and response to avian influenza outbreaks in domestic poultry.

While there is currently no vaccine for bird flu, the Florida Health Department's  ability to provide mass inoculations to the local population during a crisis has been successfully tested in recent emergencies and disaster situations.

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