The Calvert County Health Department is hosting a town hall meeting Saturday, Feb. 2 from 9 a.m.-noon at the Huntingtown Fire Department to discuss the Calvert County Pandemic Planning Project. Pandemic flu is a worldwide outbreak of influenza that spreads quickly from person to person, affecting many people in a short period of time and is capable of causing serious illness and death.
Calvert County Health Officer Dr. David L. Rogers, MD, MPH stressed that âweâre not trying to create hysteria. Weâre trying to put together a prudent plan in the event of an emergency.â
He noted that the last major pandemic occurred in 1918 with a mortality rate of 5-6 percent. Two other outbreaks took place in 1957 and 1968 but they were considered minimal. The influenza outbreak of 1918 was devastating, in some cases wiping out entire families.
âThereâs not much memory or thinking about that episode,â Rogers noted. âMy parents were young adults when that outbreak occurred, but they never mentioned it, never said anything about it. It happened, it was a horrendous thing, but it didnât seem to make any sort of lasting impression.â
Referring to what types of viruses may be in danger, he immediately pointed to Avian or bird flu. While the 1918 influenza outbreak killed 5-6 percent of the populationâwhich in that time was much lower than it is todayâAvian flu has a 50 percent mortality rate among birds in areas where it has been prevalent.
âYou keep hearing sporadic news reports of outbreaks in India, Indonesia and Vietnam,â Rogers noted. âThere have been a few sporadic cases in human beings, but the virus hasnât mutated yet.
âFlu viruses are undergoing mutations all the time,â he said. âI donât think anybody knows how to predict when a virus will mutate, but thatâs why every year we have to come up with new vaccinations because every year the strains change. Weâve had a pandemic three times in the last 100 years. The last oneâa minor oneâwas in 1968. Using those numbers, you can say there is a .03 percent probability that we can expect to have some kind of outbreak in the foreseeable future. We canât say âifâ anymore. Itâs more like âwhen.â
The project came about through funding from Maryland and the Center for Disease Control. The need for a plan was brought about by concerns that a pandemic could affect 30-40 percent of the population. Of those, a certain percentage would require medical treatment which could overwhelm not only medical services, but other segments of society as well.
âIn a period of several weeks or months, we could have as many as 15,000 deaths,â Rogers stated.
He stressed that the âpanâ in pandemic means âworldwide.â An endemic occurs within a small segment of the population in one area. An epidemic is a disease outbreak in one place at one time among a large number of people. A pandemic is one that becomes widespread and can quickly spread worldwide.
âWith the capability for world travel that we have today, it could travel very quickly to areas all over the world,â Rogers said.
Health Department representative Sharon Nazarek said that the effort to put together the plan began last fall with a proclamation from the Calvert Board of County Commissioners. The health department then hired a consultantâDaniel Stone of âAmerica Speaksâ in Virginiaâand began holding a series of focus groups to discuss options for the plan with veterans, morticians, Calvert Memorial Hospital, home health agencies, doctors, Calvert Hospice, Calvert County government, police, and emergency medical services.
âIt was a large representation of key community leaders,â she said.
Nazarek said that the Feb. 2 town hall meeting will be an opportunity for the public to address their ideas, questions and concerns about the proposed plan.
âThis meeting is the opportunity for the public to come and look at these plans and discuss them,â she said. âWe really want their input.â
E-mail Joseph Norris at email@example.com.