For the first time, Lubbock health and business leaders joined forces Thursday, to plan for a possible flu pandemic. Whether it's the Avian Flu, or some other strain, health officials believe some sort of pandemic will circle the globe and affect the South Plains. So, they say now is the time to start planning, not panic.
Historically, pandemic outbreaks cycle about every 30 or 40 years. The last major pandemic was in the 60's. Now, it's more than 40 years later, and health workers say we are due for another one. So, the question now is when and how extensive the next outbreak will be? "If this ever impacts, or hits Lubbock, it will impact everyone of us," said Health Director for the Lubbock City Health Department Tommy Camden.
Overloaded emergency rooms, a short supply of medicine, a lack of water and food, a stop or slow down in utility service and transportation, businesses could lose 25% to 35% of their workforce, these are just some of the worst case scenarios, Lubbock health experts say the city could experience if a pandemic flu hits Lubbock. "It's not just a health care problem. It's a business, it's an economy type issue," said Camden. That's why community health leaders are asking businesses, schools, churches, and residents to take action and get a plan now. "Communication, communication, communication," said Lubbock County Commissioner James Kitten.
"The Lubbock community has a lot to be proud of. We have a lot of businesses that are engaging in this process," said Camden. An ad hoc committed made up of medical, public health, academic and veterinary experts have been working since last November and are now on their seventh draft of actions. They're trying to identify the steps needed to deal with a pandemic. "To find out what those specific issues are to major community leaders, and what we can do to better prepare the entire community," said Camden. They say understanding what a pandemic is and what could happen will help individuals make more informed decisions, should the worst case scenario happen.
The education doesn't stop after Thursday. A member of Lubbock's Health Department is scheduled to attend a national pandemic flu summit in Virginia this August, and Camden says they could have exercises set up for people in the South Plains by late fall.
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