Top Federal Officials Join State Officials at Alaska Pandemic Planning Summit

Apr 13, 2006, 01:00 ET from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

    WASHINGTON, April 13 /PRNewswire/ -- Acknowledging that pandemics
 happen and require a strong local response, Alaska Department of Health and
 Social Services Commissioner Karleen K. Jackson and Deputy Secretary Alex
 Azar of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today addressed
 federal, state and local public health officials and business and community
 leaders about pandemic flu preparedness.
     "Pandemics are global in nature, but their effects are always local, so
 I am pleased that Governor Murkowski is taking a leadership role to prepare
 Alaska for this threat," Deputy Secretary Azar said. "Pandemic planning
 needs to address how schools, businesses, public agencies, faith-based
 organizations and others participate in pandemic preparedness. With this
 meeting, local officials can identify needs specific to Alaska communities
 and begin crucial coordination to assure readiness if a pandemic outbreak
     Deputy Secretary Azar is in Alaska as part of a national tour of
 states, as the federal government prepares the country for a potential
 influenza pandemic. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services
 sponsored the summit in Anchorage.
     "A flu pandemic could present particularly difficult challenges for
 Alaska because our state depends on a transportation infrastructure and
 suppliers far from our local communities for everything from medical
 supplies to food items and heating oil," said Commissioner Jackson. "We are
 better prepared for a disaster of this magnitude than in the past, but
 there are still areas where our ability to respond is weak. By working
 together, I believe Alaskans can strengthen our preparations not only for a
 potential flu pandemic, but for any other kind of disaster that we may
 encounter in the future."
     Deputy Secretary Azar and Commissioner Jackson signed a planning
 resolution during the summit, officially agreeing to prepare the state for
 the possibility of a pandemic influenza. In the planning resolution, HHS
 committed to provide guidance and technical assistance to Alaska in
 addition to an initial $657,647 of financial assistance for planning. HHS
 also agreed to review the state's plans for use, storage and distribution
 of antivirals and notify it of its portion of the federal stockpile of
 pandemic influenza antiviral drugs. Alaska also agreed that its Pandemic
 Influenza Response Plan would be an integral element of the overall state
 and local emergency response plan. Alaska has already established a Multi
 Agency Coordinating Group and an Incident Management Team representing all
 relevant stakeholders to exercise its preparedness plan.
     HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt initially outlined a series of in-state
 summits to address pandemic preparedness on December 5. Invited guests
 included first responders, business leaders, educators, health care
 providers, faith-based organizations, volunteer agencies, policy makers and
 others. According to Secretary Leavitt, the in-state summits will help the
 public health and emergency response community in each state inform and
 involve their political, economic and community leadership in this process.
 Secretary Leavitt and other top HHS officials will participate in the
 meetings over the next few months. presents all federal avian and pandemic information in
 one consolidated Web site. The site, managed by HHS, features links to
 international and state and local government websites. Planning checklists
 are provided for the following:
     * State and local government;
     * Business;
     * Individuals and families;
     * Schools;
     * Health care providers; and
     * Community organizations, including faith-based organizations
     Due to public interest in avian flu, the Alaska Department of Health
 included a panel of experts who discussed how state agencies work together
 to monitor and plan for the possibility of avian flu in Alaska.
     More information on pandemic flu readiness is available at To review a copy of Alaska's pandemic response
 plan and find links for communities, businesses and other organizations to
 prepare for pandemic flu, go to

SOURCE U.S. Department of Health and Human Services