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Tennessee Releases Revised State Pandemic Influenza Plan

Monday, June 05, 2006 | 07:00pm

Nashville, June 6, 2006

Today, Tennessee takes another significant step in the direction of statewide pandemic flu preparedness with the release of a revised State Pandemic Influenza Response Plan. The Tennessee Department of Health has had a plan in place since 1999. In November 2005, the Department began the process of making major revisions to bring it in line with new federal plans. State health officials used guidance provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the revisions to its plan. Local health officials and business, community and education leaders, who assisted in the plan’s development, will use the state plan to develop localized pandemic flu response plans.

The State’s pandemic influenza plan can be accessed on the Tennessee Department of Health’s Web site at http://www2.state.tn.us/health/CEDS/pandemic.htm.

“Tennessee will be prepared in the event we are confronted with a pandemic outbreak, and this plan is an important part of our preparation,” said Governor Phil Bredesen. “I am pleased with how our state has responded to this and other emergency preparedness issues. Whether it is pandemic flu, tornadoes or an earthquake, our ability to respond effectively in an emergency requires a good plan and clear lines of communications at all levels.”

Currently, the H5N1 avian influenza, or “bird flu,” that first emerged in Asia is being closely monitored by world health officials as a major cause of disease among birds and a possible source of a worldwide outbreak of influenza among people. The U.S. government is testing migratory birds for avian influenza, although no cases have been detected at this time. While there have been no birds or humans with H5N1 avian influenza detected in the United States, it has spread to birds in Africa and Europe by both trade in birds and poultry and by migratory birds. The H5N1 avian influenza circulating among birds rarely causes human illness and does not spread easily from person to person.  

“It is impossible to predict whether H5N1 will mutate to become able to spread easily among people,” said Kelly L. Moore, MD, MPH, Medical Director of the Tennessee Immunization Program and the Department’s Pandemic Planning Coordinator. “Flu viruses have caused pandemics throughout history, and it is natural to expect that another pandemic influenza virus will emerge at some point. Our efforts to prepare now will serve us well.”

Even though there is no current threat, State Department of Health Commissioner Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., announced that Tennessee has been preparing actively for several years to respond in the event of an influenza pandemic. “It is imperative for agencies like ours to be prepared to respond swiftly and appropriately during an emergency to protect the safety and well being of all citizens,” said Commissioner Robinson. “The Tennessee Department of Health is drawing on federal, state and international expertise to help us prepare the state to meet the challenges we will face in the event of an influenza pandemic. State health officials will continue to closely monitor developments as this issue evolves.”

All Tennesseans can help protect themselves from influenza, the common cold, and other common infections. Simple, but critical, steps include washing hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or a sleeve, and staying home when ill. Seasonal flu can be prevented by and getting a flu vaccination during every fall and winter flu season. To prepare for a pandemic and other kinds of emergencies, practice basic emergency preparedness like keeping several weeks of food, batteries, medications and water in your home, as well as a battery-powered radio. As always, avoid touching or letting children play with ill or dead birds.

For more information about pandemic preparedness, the federal government has established the Web site www.pandemicflu.gov, which contains all federal information on avian and pandemic flu in one location. The site, managed by HHS, features links to international and state and local government Web sites. Planning checklists are provided for state and local government; business; individuals and families; schools; health care providers; and community organizations, including faith-based organizations.

Press Releases | Health