City of Lincoln
2006 Media Releases
On the eve of a state summit meeting on a possible pandemic flu, Mayor Coleen J. Seng today announced that local officials have been working on response plans for several months. The planning is in response to concerns about the avian flu, which is transferred from birds to humans.
“There is a low public health risk right now, but we must be prepared in case a new strain of the flu is transferred from human to human,” said Mayor Seng. “I am pleased that local public health and emergency response officials are working together on a response plan to keep this community safe and healthy.”
Bruce Dart, Health Director of the Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department (LLCHD), said his agency is partnering with City and County fire, law enforcement, emergency management, public works and hospital officials on potential response plans. Others included in the planning process are representatives of the business, education, legal, faith and mental health communities as well as food service and transportation providers and elected officials.
“We want the public to know that they don’t need to be worried at this time about such things as eating poultry, catching avian flu from another human or immediately getting anti-virals such as Tamiflu,” said Dart. “Our local planning efforts will prepare our community on many levels if we face the pandemic flu.” Dart said initial priorities have focused on the continuation of basic services such as power, water, food, emergency response and health care.
Dart said local officials are working with state officials to assure local plans are compatible with those at the state and federal levels. That coordination includes tomorrow’s statewide flu summit sponsored by Governor Dave Heineman and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt. Mayor Seng will attend the summit, which begins at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Lied Center.
“While we have not had to respond to a pandemic flu event since 1968, we have developed strong partnerships to operate under a unified command system,” said Doug Ahlberg, Lancaster County Emergency Management Director. “The May 2004 tornados in Hallam and southeastern Nebraska taught us a lot about the value of working together.”
Dart said all agencies that would be involved have submitted individual plans and procedures that would be followed during a pandemic flu event, and a statewide exercise is being planned to test the plans. They also have started a review of current policies on quarantines in case that is needed.
To assist the public prepare for a pandemic flu outbreak, the agencies are drafting checklists based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Dart said the LLCHD will provide continuous health education information if the situation with the avian flu changes or becomes more serious.