NC girds for new type of disaster - influenza pandemic

  1. Sat, Dec. 16, 2006, Associated Press

    RALEIGH, N.C. - With its history of hurricanes, North Carolina has plenty of experience coping with calamity.

    But even with that experience, officials acknowledge there's only so much they will be able to do if and when an influenza pandemic strikes the state - and likely strikes again, and again. They forecast a grim scenario of inadequate medical supplies, curtailed freedom of movement and thousands of deaths...

    In February, officials ran daylong exercises for the state and local health departments, hospitals, emergency medical services and other agencies in eight regions statewide, with role-playing and response planning based on a variety of pandemic scenarios...

    The Division of Emergency Management ran a statewide pandemic exercise in May.... A state Task Force on Ethics and Pandemic Influenza Planning has been meeting since May to discuss ethical guidelines for the state's doctors and nurses who will be faced with deciding who gets first access to scarce hospital beds, medicine and equipment.

    The 40-member panel has come up with some guidelines for rationing medicine and equipment, and for "social distancing" - closing schools, churches and other public gatherings, encouraging people to stock up on supplies and stay home, or even issuing quarantine notices. It's due to issue a full report in the spring...

    The state's hospitals have written or are drafting plans for alternate bed sites. North Carolina also is prepared to deploy its traveling State Medical Assistance Teams - one that can create a 150-bed alternate care facility, eight regional teams that can establish 40-bed facilities, and 29 small, first-response teams....

    Excerpts from: AP Wire | 12/16/2006 | N.C. girds for new type of disaster - influenza pandemic
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