Local News

State Health Leaders Plan For Flu Pandemic

Posted October 5, 2004

— Last year's flu season was no worse than any other year, but it hit early and was deadly in North Carolina.

Health officials say last year is nothing compared to a pandemic. The last one made 51 million Americans sick.

"It can be very fatal and it's likely to happen again," said Debbie Crane of the state health department.

Pandemics are few and far between. Only three have occurred in the last century. So why the concern now?

"One reason is because people travel more often -- farther and faster than ever before. That means the flu travels with them," Crane said.

So instead of waiting, health officials are authorizing drastic measures now.

If a deadly pandemic strikes, the plan allows the state to declare a quarantine and isolation -- something even the federal government does not do.

The plan says quarantining is very effective and people put in isolation would be cared for in their homes, hospitals, or other health care facilities.

The plan is also preemptive -- it does not wait for widespread death. It can be put into place once the pandemic pops up in the state.

Not everyone sees the need.

"You're going make me leave my school and not leave my house? That's a little harsh," Bryan Floyd said.

There is a less severe option the plan calls for first. It allows the governor to use snow days during a pandemic. Work places would be closed and people would be asked to stay at home just as they would during a snow storm.

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