State releases final pandemic flu plan, will talk with community groups
By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Karen Blakeman
The state Department of Health has finalized a plan for dealing with a pandemic flu in the state, and will be moving forward to talk to businesses, schools and others about how to best deal with such a crisis.
The plan, released yesterday, calls for the stockpiling of antiviral drugs, the development of an operations center that will surge into action as the first cases of a pandemic virus appear, surveillance of the spread of the disease and steps to isolate and quarantine people to inhibit it.
Hospitals, civil defense, police and firefighters are among the traditional agencies to be called to the forefront in case of such an emergency, but reaction to pandemic flu will require planning at all levels, health officials said.
In the event of a pandemic, some businesses will be faced with having 30 percent of employees sick with the flu, said Dr. Linda Rosen, the department's deputy director for health resources administration.
"What we need them to do is to encourage those employees to stay home," she said.
In the next stages of preparation for a pandemic, said Dr. Sarah Park, deputy chief of the department's disease outbreak control division, the Health Department will help businesses, schools, churches and communities look at options that will inhibit the spread of the flu.
Telecommuting by healthy employees might be an option for some employers, she said.
The Health Department has ordered 300,000 treatment doses of the anti-viral drugs Tamiflu and Relenza, enough for 25 percent of the state's population, the amount recommended by federal authorities, she said.
Money for the medications make up about half of a $15 million appropriation request now before the Legislature, Park said.
Last week, the federal government announced it will be giving states money for pandemic flu preparation, including $800,000 to Hawai'i. Park said the government has not yet directed state officials how to use the money.
Reach Karen Blakeman at email@example.com.