Fictional Bird Flu Accounts Point To Need for Emergency Preparations - Not Panic
Highly publicized made for television dramas about fictional outbreaks of Asian Bird Flu highlight point to the need for preparation, not panic, state officials said.
The programs, the first scheduled to air tonight on the ABC network, present fictional accounts intended to serve as entertainment. However, Gov. Janet Napolitano expressed concerns the programs also may cause needless anxiety and confusion.
"I'm afraid this quest for ratings may cause panic," said Gov. Napolitano. "It's important to remember these programs are fiction, not fact. These are not documentaries. They are merely entertainment. At this time, there is no Asian Bird Flu in the United States. There is no influenza pandemic anywhere in the world. There are, however, extensive ongoing preparations in Arizona, should a pandemic occur."
Napolitano and state officials said the programs should serve as a reminder to Arizona residents, businesses, schools, organization and communities to make certain they are ready for health-related or weather-related emergencies.
"Asian Bird Flu is just that - a disease confined primarily to birds," said David Engelthaler, State Epidemiologist. "While this disease appears to be spreading quickly throughout the world in bird populations, human cases are very sporadic and extremely rare."
Although this is not considered a human health threat in Arizona at this time, state agencies, including Arizona Department of Health, the Arizona Game and Fish Department and Department of Agriculture, are working with federal and local officials
to monitor for the illness in both humans and birds.
"Even if this never becomes a real human disease, the threat of a pandemic always exists and there are steps that each of us in Arizona should take," said Engelthaler. "Every household should have a supply of food, water and required medications on hand in case family members have to stay home. It also is always important to do what your mom told you to do: Wash your hands frequently. Stay home from work when you are sick, and cover your cough!"
The Arizona Department of Health Services has developed a comprehensive plan for dealing with influenza pandemic and is working with a broad range of federal, state and local agencies; the medical and educational communities, businesses, and other organizations to help them develop their own plans.
More information on pandemic flu readiness is available at the Arizona Department of Health Services' Web site, www.azdhs.gov, or through the Department's public health hotline, 800-314-9243 or 602-364-4500 Phoenix Metro.