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States, Hospitals Roll Out Emergency Plans

States, Hospitals Roll Out Emergency Plans

Donna Leinwand, USA TODAY

May 01, 2009

‘Power to prepare’

Virginia is taking the right steps, said Sharona Hoffman, a professor of law and bioethics at Case Western Reserve University and a former researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who has participated in some of the CDC’s pandemic exercises. All states should declare public health emergencies in case the virus continues to spread, she said.

“You might think it’s an overreaction, but that’s the way to put in place the resources you need and give authorities the power to prepare,” Hoffman said.

The CDC, the lead federal agency in a pandemic, has rehearsed its plans for years, Hoffman said. The CDC has activated its preliminary pandemic plans for the first time, which include communicating daily with the public and health care providers, surveying the nation for outbreaks and positioning resources, she said.

“This is the first opportunity to see how it works,” she said. “You don’t know exactly how it’s going to work until you have the actual scenario.”

Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Medicine, a center that includes hospitals, clinics and a medical school, began its first stages of pandemic preparations on Saturday as news of the first U.S. cases emerged, said Jim Scheulen, executive director of Hopkins’ Critical Event Preparedness and Response (CEPAR) office.

CEPAR gathered its leaders Saturday night to launch its plan. The next day, staff training included information on isolating patients who appeared to have the flu. The CEPAR staff also began issuing equipment, such as masks, he said.

The group conducts two conference calls each day and is discussing ways it could handle an anticipated spike in patients who believe they have swine flu, Scheulen said. “I think we were all surprised with how quickly this cropped up, so we’re glad we made plans,” he said.

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