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DHS news release

Aug. 23, 2006


General information: Tom Towslee, 503-559-0652
Technical contact: Susan Allan, 971-673-1300

Government and business leaders plan for influenza pandemic

More than 600 representatives of state and local government, private business, and others from across Oregon met in Portland today to grapple with how to prepare for a pandemic influenza.

The workshop was convened by the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division as a follow-up to a March summit featuring Governor Kulongoski and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt.

"Oregon has taken important steps toward creating comprehensive response plans," said Susan Allan, M.D., J.D., M.P.H., state public health director for DHS. "This workshop will take us further. It is designed to help leaders in many sectors of our communities plan in a practical way across disciplines and across regions."

Allan listed some of the preparedness accomplishments thus far:

  • A state pandemic influenza plan has been developed that outlines roles, responsibilities and standard operating procedures for each phase of a pandemic outbreak.
  • A public health law review group is developing proposed legislation that will clarify and strengthen public health authority to protect the public. Issues to be addressed include isolation and quarantine processes, altered standards of care, and allocation of scarce resources.
  • A medical advisory group is being convened to develop guidelines for setting consistent statewide standards of medical care during an emergency.
  • DHS has developed a blast-fax system that can notify every medical office in Oregon within two hours of the onset of an emergency. Two systems, AlertOregon and the Health Alert Network, have been created to allow for rapid electronic notification during an emergency.
  • A broad public health preparedness educational curriculum has been developed that already has reached more than 7,000 people.

"One of the major strengths of the work that's been done is that it is multi-use," said Allan. "Many of these plans and activities apply not only to a pandemic influenza but to other disease outbreaks or natural emergencies, or even a chemical disaster."

The majority of the workshop consisted of breakout sessions to allow attendees to discuss key areas for which communities need to prepare. Topics included how to coordinate health care; caring for vulnerable populations; allocating scarce resources such as anti-viral medications and vaccines; and continuity planning for businesses and community systems such as fire, police, schools and transportation.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has provided states across the country with federal funds to be used to plan for a pandemic influenza and considers these planning efforts to be a priority.