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Ref: Federal government working with international and domestic agencies to prepare for flu outbreak

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Many agencies to contribute to pandemic preparedness

BY Bob Brewin
Published on Dec. 21, 2006

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The federal government is tapping the expertise of agencies and departments including the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance to help manage the domestic response to a pandemic flu outbreak, according to a new report from the Department of Health and Human and Services.

The report is an update to the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza plan the Bush administration released last November.

According to HHS, overseas federal agencies are working with the World Health Organization and countries with outbreaks of the H5N1 flu virus to bolster human and animal disease surveillance networks. For example, HHS is staffing the Regional Emerging Disease Infection Center (REDI) in Singapore.

Dr. Rod Hoff, formerly a researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was tapped to serve as executive director of REDI, which focuses on surveillance and rapid response to emerging infectious diseases and health security threats, as well as clinical research, laboratory techniques and safety, and regulatory practices.

DTRA, which has a primary mission of safeguarding the country against weapons of mass destruction attack, has provided modeling tools for real-time epidemic analysis, making it possible to study public health and emergency preparedness for handling a pandemic flu outbreak, the HHS report states.

The Bureau of Justice Assistance coordinated a forum of 200 federal, state and local public safety officials in May to examine public safety issues in a pandemic influenza outbreak. The results, which outline best practices and model protocols, have been published online.

The public safety forum, held in Chicago, drew heavily on lessons learned from public safety response to Hurricane Katrina last year and the SARS epidemic in Toronto in 2003, as well as pandemic plans developed by the states of Delaware, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has enhanced its Cities Mortality Surveillance System, which receives reports of pneumonia and influenza-related deaths from vital statistics offices in 122 U.S. cities, the report said.

And the Homeland Security Department, working in conjunction with the private sector, has completed development of the information technology architecture for a system to track key critical infrastructure resources in near-real time, the report said.

The national pandemic plan envisions workers staying home from their jobs in case of an outbreak and calls on federal agencies to follow the Office of Personnel Management’s Web-based guidance on polices and procedures if and when employees need to work from home.


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