Charlottesville Area Preparing for Bird Flu

By: Marcus Washington
By: Marcus Washington

May 3, 2006

The White House has released a national response to the possibility of a deadly strain of bird flu here in the United States. But how prepared is the Charlottesville area?

For nearly six months the Thomas Jefferson Health District has been using state and national strategies as guidelines to make the Charlottesville area ready for any type of flu pandemic.

”We’re here to protect the public and we do that on a daily basis, this is just a little bite larger,” said Pamela Burke, emergency planner for health department.

Burke said that having a local strategy is important to keep everyone healthy and protected.

A 210 page draft maps out every move including vaccinating the public, isolating anyone if necessary and even discusses where they will store dead bodies.

“We are looking at the local funeral homes and the hospitals how we would maintain a large number of bodies if that became necessary, said Burke.

Currently standard diagnostic test can't detect avian bird flu, but doctors say if detected early it can be treated.

"Early detection is the not only the key in treating avian bird flu, it's also important in preventing you from it,” added Dr. Bill Petri of University of Virginia.

Petri also explained that if a case of avian bird flu is reported in the Charlottesville, everyone would need to be treated to prevent the spread from person to person within in the area.

Burke said the local plan will change several times because until we're currently in a pandemic, they won't really know what works.

A final draft of the local strategy dealing with the possibility of pandemic bird flu is expected by early October.

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