Saturday, July 15, 2006

Avian flu threatens fast-paced world

Avian flu threatens fast-paced world
Contingency panel warns of ways pandemic would challenge region

By ERIC ANDERSON Deputy business editor
Click byline for more stories by writer.
First published: Friday, July 14, 2006

COLONIE -- The very things that keep the modern economy humming -- just-in-time deliveries, lean inventories, frequent international travel -- could deepen the impact of an avian flu pandemic, health care experts warned during a presentation Thursday morning.
The 1-year-old Capital Region chapter of the Association of Contingency Planners gathered to see what needs to be done to prepare for a potential outbreak.

"There's quite a bit of hype about this" in the media, said Dr. Sarah Elmendorf, an epidemiologist at Albany Medical Center. Still, the risk is real, although individuals can take steps to protect themselves.

While Elmendorf described the different types of influenza and what it would take for avian flu to create a pandemic -- easy human-to-human transmission, which hasn't yet happened -- a colleague, Kim Baker, described the potential impact to businesses, and what people can do to protect themselves.

Elmendorf said pandemic flu typically strikes three to four times a century and can come at any time of year, unlike seasonal influenza, which typically strikes in the fall and winter. Also, pandemic flu puts the entire population at risk because it's a new strain for which there's no resistance.

One challenge will be hospital capacity.

"The surge capacity in hospitals is limited," Elmendorf said. "Our hospitals are full. We don't have the beds right now."

Basic economic functions could be challenged by the high rate of absenteeism that would result from a pandemic, Baker said.

The state and federal governments likely won't be able to provide much assistance, she said, reminding the audience of how difficult it was to assist the areas struck by Hurricane Katrina.

Businesses could slow the spread of disease by keeping people apart, Baker said, letting workers telecommute when possible. Businesses also could increase the cleaning and sanitizing of door knobs, keyboards, telephones and other commonly touched office surfaces.

Employers should expect high rates of absenteeism and health care services that are overwhelmed, Baker said.

Essential services could also be at risk, with supply lines disrupted. With lean inventories, everything from groceries to the chlorine that's needed to treat water could soon be in short supply.

"Preparations should be made, not because it's imminent but because the cost of not preparing will be great," Baker said.

Eric Anderson can be reached at 454-5323 or by e-mail at

All Times Union materials copyright 1996-2006, Capital Newspapers Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.


At 12:04 AM, Blogger Kristen Bhing said...

Avian flu or bird flu is feared to create the next pandemic and wipe out millions of people around the globe. Though avian flu normally affects birds only, avian influenza viruses have shown its capacity to transgress species barrier and infect humans.

Based on the number of people who survived avian flu, nearly 50% of the time, yes. What drugs can help increase chances of survival? Is there a vaccine against avian flu? “Avian Flu Treatment,” “Treatment,” and “Alternative Medicine” sections provide up-to-date information on status of drugs and vaccination, and the medical help available for avian flu patients.


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