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Continuing its efforts to prepare for an eventual pandemic influenza, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has launched its pandemic influenza operational plan that details specific activities that would be performed during a pandemic and enhances previous planning efforts.
DHSS staff will share the plan and its details with nearly 100 public health care partners at the Kenilworth Inn, Kenilworth (Union County) on June 4. This is the last of three regional rollouts sessions of the plan. Earlier, state pandemic influenza experts described details of the plan to health care partners in southern and central New Jersey.
“The Department has been planning for a pandemic influenza for nearly 10 years,” said DHSS Commissioner Heather Howard. “We now have an operational plan that will guide the Department in its public health preparedness and response activities through specific phases of a pandemic. This plan will not only help the Department prepare but also our public health partners, and ultimately benefit the people of New Jersey.”
The plan describes a series of public health actions and activities that DHSS staff will perform in various phases of a pandemic. The goal of the plan is the to help minimize illness and deaths during a pandemic, support New Jersey’s overall pandemic response plan, and provide guidance to local health agencies and health care stakeholders in the development of their own plans. This operational plan will be an annex to New Jersey’s pandemic response plan that describes how all sectors of government will respond during a worldwide influenza outbreak.
The plan is divided into 10 technical sections, based on guidance from the federal Department of Health and Human Services. These sections include surveillance, laboratory diagnostics, health care planning, infection control, clinical guidelines, vaccine, antivirals, community disease control and prevention, public information and psychosocial considerations.
In each section, there are actions described for 17 pandemic situations, based on phases outlined by the World Health Organization (WHO). Pandemic situations in New Jersey’s plan are based on transmission of influenza to birds and humans, geographic location of the disease outbreak, the increased and sustained transmission in the general population and the duration of the pandemic.
“Each situation is a trigger for action for the Department and our partners,” said State Epidemiologist and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Eddy Bresnitz. “Many of the actions and activities occur early in the pandemic and, in fact, we are already have implemented some of the activities.
“For instance, we have protocols in place for year-around surveillance of influenza-like illnesses; we have established a state stockpile of antirvirals and have increased it each year; and we continue to conduct public awareness and education programs so New Jersey residents are familiar with a pandemic and what they can do if it occurs.”
DHSS will continue its work with local health agencies and departments, statewide organizations such as the New Jersey Hospital Association, the Health Care Association of New Jersey, the New Jersey Association of Homes and Services for the Aging and the New Jersey Primary Care Association to provide guidance and direction for their specific plans.
“Pandemic influenza planning is a fluid process that is never completed,” said David Gruber, Senior Assistant Commissioner for Healthcare Infrastructure Preparedness and Response, who leads the state pandemic preparedness effort. “We will continue to refine our plan and coordinate with federal, state and local agencies in this process to better protect the health and safety of New Jersey residents during a pandemic.”
The Department began its pandemic influenza planning activities in 1999 and posted the first version of its overall plan in 2002. The new plan is in its fourth version. Both the overall plan and the new operational plan are available on the Department’s website at www.njflupandemic.gov.
Department of Health
P. O. Box 360, Trenton, NJ 08625-0360