State plans for pandemic flu

State plans for pandemic flu
President Bush's announcement of a national pandemic influenza strategy lends new emphasis to the state's own pandemic flu planning.

Secretary of Health Doneen Hollingsworth said the president's three-pronged approach � preparedness and communication, surveillance and detection, and response and containment � mirrors what the state has outlined in its own draft pandemic flu plan. The draft plan was developed by the state Health Department, other state agencies, and health care partners and submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in April 2005.

Pandemic is a worldwide epidemic of disease. The last major flu pandemic occurred in 1918 and killed as many as 50 million people worldwide.

including more than 500,000 in the United States. Pandemics are caused by new subtypes of influenza virus or by subtypes that have never circulated among people. Because people have little or no immune protection from such new viruses, there can be high levels of illness, death, social disruption, and economic loss.

"The concern now is that the avian, or bird flu that's been circulating in Asia could change and become capable of person to person transmission. That's why CDC and other world health experts are monitoring the bird flu very closely," said Hollingsworth. "Here in South Dakota, we're also keeping a close watch on both the current flu season and avian flu developments."

The secretary said South Dakota has a system of clinics and sentinel physicians in place to diagnose and detect cases quickly and has expanded its lab capacity for testing of flu samples. Using federal bioterrorism dollars the state has provided personal protective equipment and training to help hospitals prepare for treating patients with influenza and other respiratory diseases. The state has also worked with hospitals to develop a bed utilization and patient transport plan.

Currently, the department is using its flu vaccine clinics as a training exercise for the mass immunization clinics that could become necessary in a pandemic.

Now that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has issued the national plan with additional guidance for states, Hollingsworth said the department will be revising the state plan to respond to any new federal requirements. For more information about influenza or to see a copy of the current draft state plan, see the Web at http://flu.sd.gov.

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