OLYMPIA – Thurston County officials say that the made-for-television movie, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America " which airs tonight on ABC, realistically portrays the shortages of goods and services, and some of the ensuing panic that could occur in a pandemic. But, the blurring of information and entertainment could be a disservice to the public.
"Securing quarantine areas with barbed wire and burning mass graves are not part of the pandemic influenza planning taking place in Thurston County ," says Thurston County Health Officer Dr. Diana Yu. "These fictional elements, added to give the movie theatrical value, may confuse and scare people in an unnecessary fashion." The Thurston County Public Health and Social Services Department is working with area health providers, police and fire departments, businesses, volunteer groups, schools and other organizations, on a unified pandemic influenza response plan. This plan would also be useful for other infectious disease outbreaks.
Health officials across the world have been tracking an outbreak of avian flu that has been impacting wild and domesticated birds and has spread from birds to humans in about 200 cases. So far, the avian flu has not mutated so it can spread easily from human to human. It is the potential of a new worldwide human flu virus outbreak that has health agencies concerned. Dr. Yu says even though there is no human outbreak right now, governments, businesses and citizens need to prepare. "This bird flu outbreak may never become a human flu pandemic. But we must be prepared in case it does. That's why it's important for people to be prepared to be on their own for several weeks and for employers to be ready to operate with a third or more of their workforce out of action."
There are a few simple measures that everyone can begin to practice now that will help to prevent spread of many diseases such as flu. These include washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer after using the bathroom and before preparing food, covering your cough every time with your arm or a tissue, and staying at home if you are sick so you don't spread germs to others.
Individuals are encouraged to make sure that their homes and families are prepared for at least a week on their own for any type of emergency, not just the flu. Specific information on preparing for pandemic influenza can be found at the Thurston County website at: http://www.co.thurston.wa.us/health/Influenza/Pandemic.html or by simply visiting the Thurston County web page and clicking on the link on the opening page.