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 Post subject: 9/5/2008-CDC chief states flu pandemic is coming
PostPosted: Thu Jan 01, 2009 7:19 pm 
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CDC chief states flu pandemic is coming

Published - Friday, September 05, 2008

By TERRY RINDFLEISCH | ... 00lead.txt

Ready or not, a flu pandemic is coming, says Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gerberding talked about preparing for the pandemic threat at a national conference Thursday at Logistics Health in La Crosse. No one knows when the pandemic is coming or what strain of flu virus will cause it, but it is overdue, she said.

She said she has only two meetings a week at the CDC and one focuses on flu pandemic preparations. “We take it very seriously,” Gerberding said, adding that the national strategy is to “save lives and sustain a civil society” during a pandemic.

She said politicians are not talking about a flu pandemic or the bird flu virus, which may or may not be the virus that causes the next pandemic.

“No one is talking about it, and it’s not on their radar screen,” Gerberding said.

She said CDC officials are closely monitoring the bird flu virus, which has a death rate of 63 percent among the 385 cases reported worldwide since 2003.

“It is a moving target, and we have to stay on top of it,” Gerberding said.

She said CDC scientists have created a potential vaccine in case the virus develops into a pandemic strain and are conducting more research to develop a vaccine. They have recreated the virus that caused the 1918 flu pandemic to better understand it.

Gerberding said organizations and corporations need to come up with preparedness plans and confront the impact of a flu pandemic. Some people believe a pandemic won’t happen, while others feel too overwhelmed to do anything, she said.

“Complacency is the enemy of health protection,” she said.

Gerberding said CDC officials are working to decrease the time to detect a virus and strain by improving diagnostic tests and to protect people with stockpiled antiviral medication and speedy containment of the virus.

The CDC is building 18 global disease detection and response centers around the world, Gerberding said.

Despite all the planning so far, epidemiologist Michael Osterholm, who helped lead the CDC before Gerberding was appointed director, said everyone needs to be more prepared due to our global economy.

Osterholm, director of the infectious disease center at the University of Minnesota, said the death rate from the next pandemic could exceed 300 million.

Critical products and services including food, water and basic drugs won’t get to people due to transportation and energy problems in a pandemic, he said. Global supply chains may be severely challenged, he said.

“No one has addressed the food system yet,” Osterholm said.

Logistics Health, the Coulee Region Public Health Consortium and the La Crosse Medical Health Science Consortium sponsored the conference. More than 150 business and organization personnel attended in person, and another 1,200 people watched the Webcast. A majority of the Fortune 500 corporations were represented.

Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor who is now president of Logistics Health, hired Gerberding and Osterholm when he was secretary of U.S. Health and Human Services.

“Planning is important for survival,” Thompson said.

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