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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Health department encourages schools to plan in case of flu outbreak

Friday, May 5, 2006

The updated version of the nation's flu pandemic plan, released on Wednesday, prompted all state and local officials to scramble their efforts.

Putnam County Health Department Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Steve Walters, however, has already started moving forward.

On Thursday, Walters met with members of the Putnam County Safe Schools Committee, informing them he had already met with school officials at Cloverdale regarding a flu pandemic planning checklist, provided by the federal government.

In addition, Walters told the committee that he wanted to schedule other meetings with the remaining county schools and various other organizations.

"We do have a couple of meetings put together around the county," Walters said.

While at Cloverdale, Walters presented school officials with the four-page checklist, which is part of the federal government's flu pandemic plan.

The checklist asks school districts to plan and coordinate for a possible pandemic, develop ideas for the continuity of student learning and corporation operations, set up infection control policies and procedures, and to develop a plan of communication.

The updated version of the nation's flu pandemic plan warns that the federal government will not be able to help communities taking a big hit from possible illness. It states that local communities and individuals need to take the necessary steps to help themselves.

"As far as the federal plan that came out (Wednesday), President Bush basically told us we're on our own," Walters told the committee Thursday.

The worry stems from the worldwide outbreak of the H5N1 bird flu strain and what might happen if it spreads from person to person. The bird flu has killed nearly 100 people overseas. The bird flu has been reported in several countries worldwide.

At a recent teleconference at Purdue University, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said the nation has put together its plan because of the possibility of a pandemic outbreak, something the world hasn't seen in quite some time. At the teleconference, Leavitt said there have been three pandemics in the last 100 years.

At Thursday's meeting, Walters told school and other local officials that many believe the bird flu could become another pandemic outbreak.

"History is telling us we are due for some type of pandemic (event)," he said.

Walters and other county officials, including health officer Dr. Robert Heavin and Emergency Management Agency Director Kim Hyten, are the point people in regard to putting together a plan for local communities.

Walters said he wanted to meet with officials from all five county schools to enable them to get a head-start on planning for a possible pandemic outbreak.

"It's just normal operating procedure for the schools," Walters said. "It's something for them to think about."

Safe Schools Committee Chairman and Cloverdale Middle School teacher Dan Bain said meeting with Walters was very informative.

"We have a better understanding of what we need to look at," Bain said.

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