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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 23, 2006

Hawai'i builds defense for bird-flu outbreak

By Audrey McAvoy
Associated Press

Hawai'i's medical network has stockpiled close to $3 million worth of protective goggles, gloves, boots and other gear to shield personnel if an influenza pandemic hits the Islands, an official said yesterday.

The network also is building several 20-bed acute care modules that can be set up to augment existing hospital facilities in the event of an outbreak, said Toby Clairmont, chairman of the emergency management committee of the Healthcare Association of Hawai'i.

Clairmont told a conference in Waikiki on the threat from bird flu and a possible influenza pandemic that Hawai'i's medical professionals will need to handle any outbreak on their own because other states and the federal government won't be able to send assistance.

"We've pretty much reached a consensus that we're not going to be able to help each other," Clairmont said of the states.

Dr. Gregory Poland, an epidemic and vaccine expert at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said a global flu pandemic was inevitable.

He said that's regardless of whether H5N1 the strain of bird flu that has already killed more than 100 people in Asia and the Middle East or some other strain sets off an outbreak.

Experts believe the H5N1 virus could trigger a human pandemic if it mutates and starts easily jumping from person to person.

On Tuesday, WHO said the human death toll from H5N1 virus reached 103 after five people died from the disease in Azerbaijan.