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Avian Flu[Part_2]

Avian Flu is predicted to be found in wild waterfowl in North America sometime this year. In this segment of KSMU's Sense of Community series, Michele Skalicky talks with Kevin Gipson, director of health for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department and Aaron Winslow, with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, about Avian Flu. Also, find out how Empire Bank and City Utilities are working to prepare for a possible flu pandemic.

A POSSIBLE AVIAN FLU PANDEMIC IS ON THE MINDS OF A LOT OF PEOPLE THESE DAYS. AND BUSINESS OWNERS ARE NO EXCEPTION. MANY BUSINESSES AND ORGANIZATIONS ARE MAKING PREPARATIONS IN THE EVENT THAT A FLU PANDEMIC SHOULD OCCUR.

SO FAR, AVIAN FLU HASN'T BEEN DETECTED IN NORTH AMERICA IN ANY FORM. NO BIRDS HAVE BEEN FOUND TO HAVE THE DISEASE AND NO HUMAN INFECTIONS HAVE OCCURRED. BUT THAT'S NOT TRUE IN ASIAN COUNTRIES AND IN PARTS OF EUROPE.

ONE STRAIN OF AVIAN INFLUENZA, THE H5N1 VIRUS, IS WHAT HEALTH OFFICIALS ACROSS THE GLOBE ARE WATCHING CLOSELY. IT WAS FIRST RECOGNIZED IN HUMANS IN 1997 IN HONG KONG WHEN 18 PEOPLE WERE INFECTED—SIX OF WHOM DIED.

SINCE 2003, MORE THAN 100 HUMAN H5N1 CASES HAVE BEEN DIAGNOSED IN THAILAND, VIETNAM, CAMBODIA AND INDONESIA. OF THOSE CASES, MORE THAN HALF DIED AS A RESULT OF THE VIRUS. CLOSE CONTACT WITH INFECTED POULTRY HAS BEEN THE PRIMARY SOURCE THUS FAR FOR HUMAN INFECTION. THERE HAVE BEEN ISOLATED REPORTS OF HUMAN TO HUMAN TRANSMISSION OF THE VIRUS.

ACCORDING TO THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, GENETIC STUDIES HAVE SHOWN THAT THE H5N1 VIRUS MUTATES RAPIDLY. IF IT ADAPTS TO ALLOW EASY HUMAN TO HUMAN TRANSMISISON, A PANDEMIC COULD ENSUE.

KEVIN GIPSON, DIRECTOR OF THE HEALTH FOR THE SPRINGFIELD-GREENE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, HOPES THAT IF THE VIRUS MUTATES, IT WON'T BE AS DEADLY AS IT HAS BEEN WITH BIRD TO HUMAN INFECTION.

THERE'S A NETWORK THROUGHOUT THE WORLD INCLUDING THE CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND THE WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION THAT'S MONITORING AVIAN FLU, AND IT'S BEING MONITORED HERE IN MISSOURI.

MAJOR FLU PANDEMICS OCCURRED IN THE UNITED STATES IN 1918, 1957 AND 1968. AARON WINSLOW, WITH THE MISSOURI DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND SENIOR SERVICES, SAYS THOSE PANDEMICS PROVED THAT PREPARATION IS KEY FOR MAXIMUM SURVIVAL RATES. KEVIN GIPSON EXPLAINS WHAT THOSE PANDEMICS HAVE SHOWN US.

NOT ONLY MIGHT THE AVIAN FLU HAVE A SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ON HUMAN HEALTH, IT MIGHT ALSO HAVE A DEVASTATING IMPACT ON THE WORLD'S ECONOMY.

MANY BUSINESSES HAVE BEGUN TO THINK ABOUT HOW THEY'D CONTINUE TO OPERATE SHOULD A FLU PANDEMIC OCCUR.

EMPIRE BANK IS ONE ORGANIZATION THAT HAS BEEN WORKING WITH THE SPRINGFIELD-GREENE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT TO COME UP WITH A PLAN TO DEAL WITH A POSSIBLE FLU PANDEMIC. JIM BRANDENBURGH, EXECUTIVE VICE-PRESIDENT OF EMPIRE BANK, SAYS THEY'BE BEEN GATHERING INFORMATION FOR ABOUT 6 MONTHS AND ARE WORKING WITH 14 OF THEIR AFFILIATE BANKS TO COME UP WITH A PLAN FOR A FLU PANDEMIC.

BANK REGULATORS ARE ENCOURAGING ALL BANKS TO PREPARE FOR A POSSIBLE FLU PANDEMIC. WHILE THEY'RE WORKING HARD TO FORMULATE A PLAN TO DEAL WITH A FLU PANDEMIC, JIM BRANDENBURGH HOPES THEY WON'T HAVE TO USE IT.

ACCORDING TO BRANDENBURGH, PART OF THE PLAN INCLUDES THE CONTINUATION OF CRITICAL SERVICES SHOULD A PANDEMIC OCCUR.

WHAT WILL HELP BANKS, ACCORDING TO JIM BRANDENBURGH, IS THE ABILITY FOR THE PUBLIC TO DO BANKING ONLINE AND THRU DRIVE-UP FACILITIES. OTHER ISSUES WILL INCLUDE WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF 2 OR MORE PEOPLE FROM THE SAME DEPARTMENT BECOME ILL.

BRANDENBURGH SAYS THEY'RE SURVEYING STAFF TO SEE WHO HAS HIGH-SPEED INTERNET ACCESS AT HOME SO THAT, WITH THE USE OF ENCRYPTION TOKENS, SOME STAFF COULD WORK FROM HOME IN THE EVENT OF A FLU PANDEMIC. VIDEOCONFERENCING ALSO COULD BE USED TO CONDUCT BUSINESS.

AND BRANDENBURGH SAYS THEY'RE MAINTAINING A LIMITED SUPPLY OF ANTISEPTIC CLEANER, GLOVES AND MASKS. SOME COMPANIES ARE EVEN TRYING TO SECURE A SUPPLY OF TAMIFLU, WHICH CAN EASE SYMPTOMS OF BIRD FLU IF ADMINSTERED EARLY. THAT'S SOMETHING JIM BRANDENBURGH SAYS EMPIRE BANK IS LOOKING INTO.

CITY UTILITIES IS ANOTHER LOCAL ORGANIZATION THAT'S WORKING TO FORMULATE A PLAN TO DEAL WITH A FLU PANDEMIC. BILL DEAL, CU'S SECURITY DIRECTOR, SAYS IT'S THE CONTINUATION OF A PLAN ALREADY IN PLACE TO DEAL WITH INTERRUPTION OF SERVICES.

IN THE EVENT OF A FLU PANDEMIC, IT WOULD BE CRITICAL THAT UTILITIES CONTINUE TO BE PROVIDED.

BILL DEAL SAYS THEY'RE LOOKING AT THINGS LIKE HOW TO CONTINUE TO OPERATE POWER PLANTS AND WHO ARE THE PEOPLE NEEDED TO CONTINUE TO CARRY OUT CRITICAL FUNCTIONS.

KEVIN GIPSON SAYS INDIVIDUALS CAN PREPARE FOR A POSSIBLE AVIAN FLU PANDEMIC BY STOCKPILING A 2-WEEK SUPPLY OF FOOD AND HAVING A LITTLE BIT OF CASH ON HAND.

THE SPRINGFIELD-GREENE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT IS WORKING WITH SEVERAL AREA ORGANIZATIONS AS WELL AS SPRINGFIELD AND GREENE COUNTY TO PUT TOGETHER A FLU PLAN THAT WILL BE PART OF THE DEPARTMENT'S EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLANS. GIPSON SAYS THEY MIGHT USE NEIGHBORHOOD SCHOOLS AS MEDICATION DISTRIBUTION POINTS AND AS TRIAGE SITES.

THEY'VE ALSO BEEN WORKING WITH THE MEDIA.

CONTROL MEASURES ARE IN PLACE, GIPSON SAYS, TO DEAL WITH ANY DISEASE, BUT THEY JUST DON'T KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT IF THE H5N1 VIRUS MUTATES AND CAUSES A FLU PANDEMIC.

GIPSON SAYS THRU HISTORY, THE SPRINGFIELD-GREENE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT HAS DEALT WITH DISEASE. ONE OF THE REASONS IT WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1873 WAS TO CONTROL THE SPREAD OF SMALL POX, CHOLERA AND YELLOW FEVER. NOW, HISTORY MAY, IN A SENSE, REPEAT ITSELF.

THIS PROGRAM IS AVAILABLE ON THE WEB AT KSMU.ORG. FOR KSMU AND THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY SERIES, I'M MICHELE SKALICKY.