Press Release

April 25, 2006


Public health director addresses pandemic flu preparedness and response

Macoupin County Health Department outlines its pandemic planning efforts

CARLINVILLE, Ill. – Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, visited Carlinville today to inform the Macoupin County Health Department and public about Illinois’ preparedness for a pandemic flu outbreak and to learn about preparations the health department has taken to respond to a local emergency.

“The state of Illinois is working diligently to make sure we are prepared to handle a pandemic flu outbreak or terrorist act. Local health departments will play a major role in the response to such an event and it is important we communicate with them and know they are prepared,” said Dr. Whitaker.

The Illinois Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan is a framework for Illinois to stop, slow or otherwise limit the spread of an influenza pandemic, sustain infrastructure, mitigate the impact to the economy and reduce social disruption. It provides state government with a set of preparedness activities and response functions. The plan also provides local health departments, health care provider systems and first responder organizations with preparedness and response expectations.

Dr. Whitaker talked about the differences between seasonal and pandemic flu; the transmissibility of the flu; the outcome, such as the projected number of deaths, hospitalizations and people who did not seek medical care; an overview of what kind of health care resources and services are anticipated; protective recommendations for the public; the impact on society; potential vulnerabilities; and what can be done.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) held the first of three pandemic flu tabletop exercises in March. Along with the Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) and the Illinois Department of Agriculture, IDPH discussed command decision making for issues such as availability and distribution of vaccine and antiviral medications; a priority system for who would receive the limited quantity of vaccinations and antivirals; the need for doctors, nurses and medical equipment; other facilities to house the sick that will be needed when the hospitals are full; and many other issues. IDPH also will conduct tabletop exercises on May 11 and May 18 th to further address these issues. IEMA has held other pandemic flu tabletop exercises and will conduct a full-scale, statewide exercise the first week of May in which IDPH will participate.

Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich hosted the Illinois’ Pandemic Influenza Readiness Summit last month and heard from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt and state officials about pandemic influenza planning and preparedness.

After Dr. Whitaker talked about the state’s preparedness, the Macoupin County Health Department reviewed the success of its recent Strategic National Stockpile exercise in which the health department simulated the distribution of medicines. Macoupin County Health Department Administrator Kent Tarro also highlighted the departments HOW, Health on Wheels, vehicle, which offers blood, glucose and HIV/AIDS screenings, as well as the fact that Macoupin County is the only health department in the state that offers a 24 hour-7 days a week hotline for domestic violence victims.

“We want to thank Director Whitaker for his support of local health departments and for visiting Macoupin County,” said Tarro. “We look forward to continuing our work with Dr. Whitaker concerning the rise in obesity, health disparities and collaborative efforts in fighting cancer.”

Dr. Whitaker has made a point of visiting as many health departments as he can. He has been to health departments for 46 counties, from the Southern Seven Health Department, which covers Alexander, Hardin, Johnson, Massac, Pope, Pulaski and Union counties to the Chicago Health Department. Some departments, like Macon County, he has been to more than once.

For more information:

Pandemic Influenza Fact Sheet
Illinois Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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