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N.C. Prepares For Flu Pandemic

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RALEIGH, N.C. — On Tuesday, President George W. Bush alerted local governments across the nation to prepare for a worst-case scenario: a world-wide flu pandemic.

While health officials are not sure if, when or where the killer flu would strike or how bad it would be, there are questions about how prepared North Carolina is when it comes to dealing with just the normal flu.

At Broughton High School in Raleigh on Tuesday, a crowd waited in line for as long as three hours for a flu shot.

"I thought I'd drive up, get a shot and then plan for tomorrow," said teacher Erin Krupa, who waited for about two hours.

Some were turned away after the clinic ran out of shots. A similar situation also happened in Moore County.

Dr. Jeff Engel, the state's epidemiologist, said the problem is caused by a lack of flu vaccine manufacturers.

"We're kind of vulnerable to three suppliers," he said. "If something were to happen at any one of those plants, the supply would be threatened."

The good news is that this year's overall vaccine supply should be adequate. There are about 70 to 90 million doses available this year in the nation, and about 50 to 60 million people usually get vaccinated.

There is also still plenty of time to get a flu shot, Engel said. The flu season in North Carolina does not usually start until February.

But with supply problems continuing to hamper the fight against the normal flu, there are concerns about how prepared local areas are for a possible flu pandemic.

Engel said the state has been preparing for a possible pandemic for a long time.

He said the state has been receiving funds from the Centers for Disease Control since 1999 to hire disease specialists and improve its information-gathering process to better detect possible outbreaks.

And even though getting a flu shot has nothing to do with fighting a pandemic, Engel said the flu shot is still relevant.

"I think getting the yearly flu shot gets people into the routine that when a pandemic strikes, we're going to need to get a flu shot and it will be for everyone," he said.


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