By JASON MOON
The speech has become old hat, but Steve Walters continues to spread the message.
On Tuesday, the Putnam County Health Department Emergency Preparedness Coordinator met with the Cloverdale Town Council to discuss the county's plan for a possible pandemic event.
Walters told the board the health department is concerned about the possibility of pandemic flu and bird flu.
"They are two different things," he said.
Walters told the board and residents in attendance that most experts believe a pandemic event is right around the corner. He provided the council members with informational sheets on both items.
Recently, the federal government informed state officials that each had to come up with a plan. In its updated version of the flu pandemic plan, the federal government warned that it would not be able to help communities taking a big hit from possible illness. It required local communities and individuals take the necessary steps to help themselves.
On Tuesday, Walters echoed those sentiments to the Cloverdale council.
"The town itself needs to start looking at how it's going to handle operations if and when pandemic flu happens," he said. "A lot of people are going to get sick."
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 more than 100 people overseas and has been reported in several countries worldwide. But Walters told the council Tuesday that there has not been a confirmed report of the bird flu strain in the United States so far.
Walters said the odds of a worldwide pandemic is great because there hasn't been one in quite a while. He said the last pandemic, which happened in 1918, took 21 days to spread across the country, but officials estimate that another pandemic could take as little as one week to spread.
"We're overdue as far as the time line is concerned," Walters said.
Walters stressed the town needed to look at how it would operate if a pandemic takes place, saying that health officers would more than likely shut down practically all forms of business.
"The pandemic planning is going to affect all your departments," he said.
Board member John Davis asked Walters if there was anything specific the council would need if a pandemic outbreak took place. Walters said cleaning supplies would be a necessity, along with latex gloves and other items.
"The more healthy we are, the better chance we have of surviving this thing," Walters said.