Pandemic Plan Released by Governor's Office

Pandemic Plan Released by Governor's Office

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Ed Yeates ReportingNo warning at all, or a three-month warning, that's what could happen if a first wave of a pandemic reaches Utah. The information, released today by the Governor's Office, is part of what's in a new Pandemic Plan.

Though it might not happen, the State is preparing for a worst case scenario - just in case. We gave you a hint of the plan last week. Now, with today's release, come some sobering details.

Governor John Huntsman: "We don't know whether the bird flu will ever come to Utah. We do know that by planning and preparing for such a threat we can save lives."

If it comes, if it's really bad, in the first wave the illness could hit 250,000 to 400,000 Utahns. 125,000 to 250,000 would need a doctor's care. 3,700 to 10,000 might be hospitalized. One thousand to four thousand could die.

Then the second wave - hitting three to nine months later. Add another 50 to 80 thousand illnesses, 750 to 2,000 more entering hospitals, and another 250 to 1,000 deaths.

Robert Rolfs, M.D., State Epidemiologist: "If the hospitals were overwhelmed with patients we would have to find ways to take care of more people."

A vaccine, available on a limited basis six to eight months after the pandemic begins, would have to be given in two doses, 30 days apart, to every person. To minimize the spread of illness, "social distancing," as it's called might become mandatory. Cancellation of mass gatherings, including concerts, sports events, schools and churches. There would be travel restrictions, quarantines, and backup centers to house the overflow of sick people.

Robert Rolfs, M.D.: "We would probably have to set up some alternate sites working with the health care community. We would have to encourage more people to be cared for at home who otherwise might end up in the hospital."

If the current Avian flu strain everybody's worrying about mutates and begins spreading rapidly from person to person, expect massive surveillance and screenings of both humans and birds.

Mike Marshall, DVM, State Veterinarian: "The high pathogen will kill many birds very quickly. And those types have the greatest potential to mutate into a human form."

Meanwhile, whether it happens or not, the state says it's good to keep practicing what we do now for our routine every season kind of influenza. Get a flu shot and stay home when you're sick.

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