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Local Emergency Planners Prepare For Bird Flu

By Kevin Fox
" If it (Bird Flu) was presented in the United States today, unfortunately you could be talking about a mortality rate of 58%!" stated Gail McCurdy Regional Communicable Disease Specialist from the Adair County Health Department located in Kirksville. McCurdy along with Ron Stewart Regional Emergency Preparedness Planner made that comment as a part of a presentation given to the Clark County Local Emergency Planning Committee at the groups regular bi-monthly meeting on Wednesday, May 16. The picture that the pair of experts presented was not a good one if the unthinkable would happen and the Bird Flu would appear in the United States.  Ron Stewart stated, "And what might be even more difficult is the fact that it would be so wide spread, that more than likely we here in rural Missouri would be left on our own with the greatest care given to the population centers such as St. Louis. Of course this is all based on "What if" and it’s certainly something that we hope does not happen but it’s important to have a plan in place should a worse case scenario take place.
McCurdy also presented these alarming figures: The disease hits those primarily under 40 years of age ( 89%). Most people start with the normal flu symptoms of fever and evidence of pneumonia, and the anti-virals need to be initiated within 48 hours of onset. It is also very conceivable that should the bird flu hit this area you need to have a plan if your patients are refused care at area hospitals because of over crowding.
A discussion was held concerning possible treatment centers if area hospitals could not take our residents. Among locations given would be local schools, the C.A.R.E. Building and even Roller-Rena and perhaps the nursing home. It’s also critical to keep exposure to a minimum every effort must be made to prevent that from occurring, so if a flu pandemic occurred, administration officials along with guidance from the local health department would close the schools until it would be appropriate and safe to reopen them.
There was also discussion surrounding maintaining a continuity of critical infrastructure during this time. This would include the business continuity, as people will continue to need food and other life dependent items. It’s important to maintain these operations. The distribution of antiviral vaccine plan was also spoken of and how that process would need to occur as well as the role of FEMA in providing shelter, bulk distribution of relief supplies, food and emergency basic first aid.
 It must be remembered that the plans and figures that were presented were on a "What If" basis and given so that emergency personal would be aware of their role in dealing with this crisis in the event it should ever occur. Stewart and McCurdy made their presentations at the request of Evelena Sutterfield R.N Administrator of the Clark County Health Department.
  Following the presentation, the Clark County LEPC (Local Emergency Planning Committee) conducted its regular business with approval given of the March 15 minutes. A treasurer’s report was given which reflected an ending balance as of May 16, 2007 of $11,512.51. Disbursements for May totaled $96.66, and were for expenses in putting on the mock disaster training on April 21.
LEPC Chairman Chuck Jenkins stated that he felt the mock
disaster on April 21 had gone very well and praised the efforts of the Incident Commander Mickey Davis the Revere Fire Chief.  "There were areas where some valuable lessons were learned which is the reason for the mock disaster. If mistakes, and I don’t really want to call them mistakes, are made a training exercise is when they should occur instead of during an actual disaster or incident. Other members added comments concerning their experiences at the drill. It was asked if the exercise could be held either earlier or later in the year when less of the members might be in the field planting. It will be looked at for future training next spring with the weather being one of the determining factors. It was also discussed how the LEPC Emergency Response Trailer might be better used at future training exercises. The next mock disaster will be October 6th and will involve the railroad.
  It was reported that there would be a presentation by the Pipeline Association of Missouri at the Clark County Senior Center in Kahoka on Wednesday May 23. It will begin with a dinner from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and the meeting lasting until 8:30 p.m.
  A committee has been set up to purchase high visibility safety vest that will be used to identify incident commanders and other key personnel. Vest will be purchased for those overseeing key responders to an incident, such as medical, fire, and police.
  A search is continuing to find absorbent to replace that used at a fuel spill earlier this year. Those responding were less than impressed by the material used and are looking for an absorbent that would work better.
  Jesse Rye of Revere reported that he needed members to inform him when they would be able to attend future NIMs (National Incident Management) certification. A minimum of 15 members needs to be present for the training.