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County leaders, health officials tackle mock pandemic flu outbreak
07.29 pandemic flu
Health department officials and Effingham County authorities conducted a tabletop exercise on a mock pandemic flu outbreak. - photo by Photo provided

Effingham County government, health care, civic and community leaders gathered recently to learn more about pandemic influenza and how an outbreak might affect the citizens of Effingham County. Annette Neu, director of Emergency Preparedness and Response for the Coastal Health District, led the hands-on discussion.

“This pandemic flu tabletop exercise allowed county leaders to come together and work through a hypothetical scenario that included responding to a pandemic flu outbreak,” said Neu. “The participants get a feel for what kind of problems the county would face and are tasked to come up with possible solutions for those problems.”

The early part of the exercise focused on defining pandemic flu. While most people know about seasonal flu (the common flu that goes around each year and can typically be prevented with a vaccination), many are unfamiliar with pandemic flu, said Effingham County Health Department Administrator Joe Atkins.

“A flu pandemic happens when a new, unknown flu strain emerges and starts spreading quickly among people around the world,” he said. “If a pandemic flu occurs, it would likely shut down businesses and schools and possibly result in the collapse of our infrastructure. This exercise allowed us to review important emergency operation plans that could help lessen the damage.”

Pandemic flu tabletop discussions are being held in all eight Coastal Health District counties including Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long and McIntosh. The exercises are designed to educate community partners about the severity of pandemic flu and provide an open forum for discussion about community response to crisis scenarios.