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States, Hospitals Roll Out Emergency Plans

States, Hospitals Roll Out Emergency Plans

Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY

May 01, 2009

Health departments and hospitals are shifting into emergency mode as clusters of swine flu develop across the USA, and some are activating pandemic plans for the first time.

Many states have declared a public health emergency in anticipation of a pandemic, a global epidemic in which the new flu strain spreads from person to person. Some of these states have requested their share of the federal stockpile of flu medicine as at least 10 states — Arizona, California, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New York, Ohio and Texas — have confirmed swine flu cases.

Emergency rooms are reviewing their plans for handling a mass outbreak of illness and stepping up infection-control measures, such as distributing masks to all employees. Pharmacists and medical suppliers are reporting brisk sales of masks.

Virginia, which has no confirmed cases of swine flu, prepared for a possible outbreak by activating its pandemic plan for the first time since it was created in 2002, Bob Mauskapf, director of emergency operations for the state’s health department, said at a news conference.

The state put its pandemic plan — which outlines procedures for communicating with the public, dispensing medicine and monitoring outbreaks — into effect after the anthrax attacks killed five people and sickened 17 others in the USA.

Virginia has conducted pandemic drills six times since 2006.

“Based on the rapid spread of the virus, we believe more cases will be found in the coming weeks and months,” Mauskapf said.

As part of its emergency operations, state officials are conducting daily conference calls with local health departments and school districts to identify outbreaks of illness and are contacting the state’s doctors and health care workers, he said. If the disease emerges in Virginia, the state might close schools, ban large public gatherings and activate its medicine distribution plan, he added.

Virginia also declared a health emergency Monday, allowing it to request its share of flu medicine from a federal stockpile. The state has 770,000 courses of flu medicine and has requested 280,000 treatments from the federal government.

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