TRENTON - Health and Senior Services Commissioner Clifton R. Lacy,
M.D. and public health officials today announced a comprehensive
preparedness plan outlining New Jersey's response to future
influenza pandemics. A pandemic is a global infectious disease epidemic
that could result in millions of deaths.
Jersey will now be ready if and when a novel flu virus with pandemic
potential is detected anywhere in the world," Commissioner
Lacy said. "This plan will optimize our response and minimize
the impact of the illness, should an outbreak occur.''
initiative is also an important component of New Jersey's overall
emergency and disaster preparedness efforts. In preparing for the
naturally occurring threats of influenza and other emerging infections
and disease outbreaks, we are also enhancing our capabilities to
detect and respond to intentional health threats including those
related to bioterrorism,'' Dr. Lacy added.
Surmay, Health Officer of Elizabeth, who also represents the New
Jersey Health Officers Association, joined the commissioner at the
press conference today in Trenton. The plan is the result of a three-year
collaboration involving numerous health organizations in both public
and private sectors.
members of the New Jersey Health Officers Association endorse this
plan and support efforts to prepare for influenza and other important
public health challenges," Surmay said.
viruses are constantly changing, and each year's flu vaccine is
formulated to reflect what is anticipated to be the flu strain for
the coming season. Pandemics occur when influenza viruses shift
to a new type - one to which most of the public has not been previously
exposed and therefore which may result in more severe illness. Three
influenza pandemics have occurred in the 20th century, including
the "Spanish flu" of 1918 that killed more than 20 million
consider another pandemic inevitable and estimate, at most, nine
months time from the time a novel strain is identified somewhere
in the world to the start of outbreaks in the United States. As
a result, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) encouraged states to undertake influenza planning. New Jersey
is the ninth state to complete such a plan. The plan estimates that,
in this state, a pandemic could result in as many as 1.5 million
outpatient visits, 35,000 hospitalizations, and 8,000 deaths.
Jersey's plan is organized according to the six stages of a pandemic.
The intensity of the public health effort - in the areas of disease
surveillance, vaccine delivery, use of antiviral agents, communications
and emergency response - varies based on stage.
"novel virus alert" means a novel virus with pandemic
potential has been detected in at least one person. A "pandemic
alert" takes effect when that virus is shown to cause multiple
cases in the same geographic area. A "pandemic'' is declared
when there is further spread over several continents.
the event of a pandemic alert, the New Jersey DHSS would activate
its Pandemic Operations Center and its Influenza Pandemic Health
and Medical Advisory Team that includes representation from a wide
range of health care experts and providers.
is timely that this influenza plan be announced as we approach flu
season,'' said Dr. Eddy Bresnitz, State Epidemiologist and Assistant
Commissioner. "This serves as a reminder of the importance
of influenza vaccination, especially for the elderly, anyone six
months or older with a chronic illness and anyone over the age of
50 who would like to avail themselves of the vaccine,'' Dr. Bresnitz
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