Bird flu fight comes to Kenai

Seminar focuses on preparing the community for a pandemic

Posted: Sunday, June 11, 2006

The Alaska Division of Public Health believes the country could have a pandemic soon.

To get ready, flu pandemic seminars are being conducted throughout the state, including one in Kenai this week.

“History shows us there are three pandemics (in the United States) per century,” said Kerre Fisher, training and exercise officer for public health.

Fisher cited the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, which killed 20 million people worldwide and 500,000 in the United States; the Asian flu pandemic of 1957, which killed 69,000 Americans; and the 1968 Hong Kong flu, to which 33,800 deaths were attributed, as the 20th century’s three pandemics.

“We could very well have a pandemic very soon,” Fisher said.

Beginning with a town-hall style forum open to the public at 7 p.m. Monday in the Kenai Senior Citizens Center, experts in a number of health fields will present information on how to prepare, what to do in the event a pandemic reaches the Kenai Peninsula and what the state is doing.

The multi-agency experts will then hold a two-day seminar Tuesday and Wednesday at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska in Kenai for key community members from business, health care, emergency response and the faith community, according to Fisher.

Fisher said representatives from the state epidemiology section and the Division of Behavioral Health, wildlife biologists from the Department of Fish and Game, homeland security and emergency management officials, food safety experts from the Department of Environmental Conservation and emergency medical services trainers will participate.

“We will also have someone there from Alaska State Troopers to speak on quarantining and isolation,” Fisher said.

She said it is important for people to realize all sectors of the community are impacted by pandemics, because illnesses such as the flu infect those working in all positions from the grocer to the hospital worker.

For that reason, it is possible that when a pandemic hits, people will not be able to get food or medicine or almost anything they normally expect to have available in the community.

“It’s better we get prepared as best we can in advance,” she said.

She said Alaskans are generally much better prepared than people in the Lower 48, because “we are frequently caught in situations where we are cut off.”

“In urban areas, there are still too many people dependent on just-in-time delivery,” she said. “Preparation starts at the individual.”

Fisher said similar pandemic seminars have already been held in Nome, Sitka, Kodiak and Juneau.

The Kenai seminar is the only one slated for the Kenai Peninsula.

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