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Last Updated: 07/01/13 11:23:09 AM

Pandemic Flu
The links below provide checklists to guide Nevadans preparing for pandemic flu.
What is pandemic flu?
A pandemic is an outbreak of a disease that happens in many different countries at the same time. A pandemic of influenza, or flu, occurs when a new flu virus rapidly spreads from country-to-country around the world. This rapid spread of flu can happen because most people will not be immune to a new flu virus, and it is possible that a vaccine against the virus will not available until months after the new virus first appears. In addition, people with flu who travel from country-to-country in airplanes can be a source of infection, as occurred in the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) outbreak in Asia and Canada in 2003. Pandemics are not just particularly bad flu seasons. In fact, they are not seasonal at all; they can happen anytime.

A flu pandemic may be caused by any type of emerging flu virus that is new to humans, including the avian (bird) flu strain.

In the 20th century, several flu pandemics occurred - the biggest one in 1918. During that pandemic, at least 500,000 Americans died, and it has been estimated that there were as many as 10 million deaths worldwide.

 
What is the difference between a pandemic and an epidemic?
An epidemic is an outbreak of disease that occurs in one or several limited areas, like a city, state or country. Once the disease spreads beyond the borders of several countries, and affects many countries across the globe, it is called a pandemic.
 
How is pandemic flu treated?
The virus that would cause a pandemic flu virus will have undergone such a dramatic change that current flu vaccines will probably offer no protection and most, if not all people may have no natural immunity. Once a pandemic flu virus appears, it takes at least six months to develop a vaccine that precisely matches the composition of the new virus. This means that there is currently no vaccine to protect against pandemic flu.  Scientists are now studying the current bird flu virus in Asia for clues on future vaccine development.
 
Are there other methods to prevent a pandemic flu?
Antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu may offer protection to some patients against pandemic flu. However, flu viruses can become resistant to these drugs. The exact effectiveness of antiviral medications will not be fully known until a pandemic virus is circulating. Good health habits can help protect against infection from all forms of flu. Learn more on the Flu Prevention web page.
 
When will the next pandemic flu occur?
Influenza pandemics occur naturally, and are impossible to accurately predict. However, scientists are monitoring the current bird flu outbreak in Asia and Eastern Europe for changes in the virus that would allow it to spread quickly among people.
 
What can I do to prepare for pandemic flu?
It's a good idea to prepare for a pandemic much as you would for an earthquake, flood or other disaster. A pandemic is caused by a strain of virus that is new chances are, most, if not all people would have little to no natural immunity and the virus would be highly contagious, from person to person. Therefore, it may be necessary to protect yourself and others from getting the virus by remaining in your home for several days. Or, you may find yourself staying home from work to care for sick children, or even working from home. The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health recommends taking the following steps for personal preparedness:
  • Items for personal comfort. You may want to have extra items on hand to make your time at home more comfortable, like food, water, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, cleaners and activities for children.
  • Cash. Make sure to have some cash on hand. If necessary, you may be able to be have items delivered to your door.
  • Pets. Don't forget your pets. Make sure you have enough food and water for them and other necessities like extra litter.
  • Phone. If there are disruptions to power, you will need to have a phone that does not run on power from an electrical outlet (a standard "wired" or "landline" phone). Cordless phones will not operate when the power is out, however cellular phones will.
  • Medications and equipment. If you must take medications on a regular basis, be sure to have enough of a supply to last for several days.
  • Large trash bags. Garbage service may be disrupted or postponed for many days. Have bags on hand to store garbage safely.
  • Prepare ahead. Talk to your friends and family about emergency plans. Make sure you have a plan to check in with elderly parents and friends, that children know who to contact in an emergency and that you know your family's medical histories, social security numbers and other basic information.
For more information on personal preparedness, please visit the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health's Public Health Preparedness website. The site features tips and checklists to help you develop a household disaster plan, pack an emergency preparedness kit, and much more.  You can also access the Red Cross preparedness website by clicking here.
 
What is the State of Nevada doing to prepare for a pandemic?
The Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, working with local health districts and departments statewide, monitors each flu season in several ways:
  • We ask doctors and others who see patients to count the number of patients they see each week with a flu-like illness.
  • We ask nursing homes to let us know if their patients begin to get sick with something that looks like flu.
  • We ask doctors and laboratories to send samples to the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory from patients with flu-like illness so we can try to grow flu from the sample. This helps us to know if the virus circulating in our state is the same strain that is active in other parts of the United States, and whether or not that year’s flu vaccine protects against the virus we have identified.
  • We follow the trends in the number of people who die in Nevada's larger cities from flu and pneumonia — a serious lung infection that can be a complication of flu.
Additionally, the Nevada State Public Health Laboratories perform specialized testing for flu and send samples of influenza to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), where they use information from Nevada and other states to determine what strains of flu should be covered in each year’s flu vaccine.

All year long, we ask doctors to report any serious or fatal illness where they were unable to find a cause for the illness, so we can do testing for flu. We monitor updates from the CDC and the World Health Organization on influenza vaccine developments and events related to flu, including the outbreak of avian flu in Asia. We work with other state and local government agencies and hospitals in Nevada and our neighbor states to develop response plans specific to pandemic flu.

 
The Nevada Department of Agriculture would lead the response to any cases of bird flu detected in Nevada poultry flocks, and would work with their counterparts in the United States as necessary.
  • For the past two years, the Department of Agriculture has, and continues to run tests on samples associated with waterfowl, migratory and shorebirds, and domestic poultry deaths.  The Department's Animal and Food Safety Laboratory has federal funding for avian influenza tests, and is certified by the national Veterinary Services Laboratory to run these tests.
  • If a sample is found to be positive for high-pathogenicity avian influenza, the sample is sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory for confirmation within 24 hours.
  • The initial response upon a preliminary positive in domestic poultry will include immediate notification of the Governor's office, the Division of Emergency Management, Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health, and the USDA-Veterinary Services.  Infected birds would be purchased to limit spread of disease.
  • Upon confirmation by the National Veterinary Service Laboratory, a public information outreach program would be initiated by partner state agencies and the USDA.  The State Veterinarian, with approval from the Governor, would ask the Secretary of Agriculture for an extraordinary emergency declaration and a state/federal task force would be convened.
  • Education and outreach activities have been directed to practicing veterinarians, feed stores, extension offices and local health agencies for the past six months.
  • The Department of Agriculture has been consulting with state and federal wildlife agencies on safety procedures for collecting migratory and shorebirds as well as waterfowl.
The Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW) is the state agency responsible for the management of the State's wildlife resources as set forth in Nevada Law.  NDOW works cooperatively with the Nevada Department of Agriculture (NDOA) on matters of animal health and disease.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is the federal agency responsible for the management of migratory birds under several laws, including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  The Service coordinates with states to manage populations of hunted game birds and species utilized for subsistence as well as other migratory birds that are not taken for sport or traditional sustenance.  Information about the Service's role in Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) can be examined by clicking here.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) is the federal multi-disciplinary science organization agency that monitors biology, geography, geology, geospatial information and water.  It is dedicated to the timely, relevant, and impartial study of the landscape, natural resources and the natural hazards that threaten the country.  It monitors HPAI through its National Wildlife Health Center.  Information about the USGS's role in HPAI can be examined by clicking here.

The Interagency HPAI Working Group is comprised of USGS, Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Alaska Department of Fish & Game personnel drawn together to address the issue of HPAI occurrence in North America.  The initial phase will address early detection activities in Alaska and in particular that state's coastal areas where initial contact with HPAI-infected waterfowl stocks would most likely occur.  The second phase will address subsequent HPAI detection activities in the four North American flyways.

 
NDOW's Work Plan
Surveillance:  Activities to detect prevalence of HPAI among migratory waterfowl will fall under the guidelines developed by the Working Group.  NDOW actions in the field will be coordinated with the Nevada Department of Agriculture's State Veterinarian.  If it is determined that a coordinated surveillance effort is necessary, the NDOW's activities will likely include the following:
  • Random sampling:  NDOW personnel will establish checkpoints at strategic locations designed to collect blood and/or tissue samples of hunter-harvested waterfowl.
    • Sampling efficacy to be analyzed
    • Sampling protocol to be determined
  • Targeted sampling:  NDOW personnel will work with the Service to obtain samples through scheduled field sampling efforts, sometimes concurrent with other activities such as banding.
    • Sampling efficacy to be analyzed
    • Sampling protocol to be determined
  • Continued general monitoring:  NDOW personnel will continue to monitor work and reports about HPAI through Internet sources, mass and interest-specific media, and through coordination within the Pacific Flyway Council and its association with the Working Group.
Links
  • For more information about NDOW's HPAI plan, please visit their website.
  • For information from the USGS National Wildlife Health Center, please visit their website.
  • For information from the U.S. Department of the Interior, please visit their website.
 
EMERGENCY CONTACTS

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Right ArrowNV State Health Division
    Main:  (775) 684-4200
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    (775) 688-2830
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    Reporting (775) 684-5911
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 Right Arrow24-Hour CDC Info Line
    1 (800) CDC-INFO
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 Right Arrow24-Hour CDC Emergency
    Operations Center
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