Pandemic flu workshop to help strengthen preparedness plans, response

Representatives from the energy, petrochemical and transportation industries and area hospitals, non-governmental and community based organizations will team up with local public health officials to strengthen preparedness for a possible influenza pandemic at a workshop Nov. 15-16.

Sponsored by the Houston Department of Health and Human Services (HDHHS), the workshop will help promote advance planning, improve response partnerships and determine whether current plans address the full scope of preparedness for a flu pandemic. The workshop will be held from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Houston Hotel, 1700 Smith Street.

Keynote speaker Dr. Mary McDaniel, a board-certified physician, licensed attorney and risk and crisis communication expert, will discuss myths and facts of avian flu viruses. 

Dr. David Persse, health authority and director of Emergency Medical Services for the city of Houston, and Dr. Herminia Palacio, executive director, Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services, will present “The Local Response: City of Houston and Harris County.”

A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus emerges for which people have little or no immunity, and for which there is no vaccine. The disease spreads easily person-to-person, causes serious illness and can sweep across a country or around the world in a short time.

Health professionals are concerned that the continued spread of a highly pathogenic avian H5N1 virus across eastern Asia and other countries represents a significant threat to human health. The H5N1 virus has raised concerns about a potential human pandemic because:

  • It is especially virulent
  • It is being spread by migratory birds
  • It can be transmitted from birds to mammals and in some limited circumstances to humans, and
  • Like other influenza viruses, it continues to evolve.

Other workshop sessions include:

“Legal Implications and Duty To Serve,” Dr. Joseph McMenamin, partner McGuireWoods.

“Public Health Best Practices,” Dr. Sadina Reynaldo, epidemiologist, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

“The Hospital Response,” Dr. C. Glen Mayhall, the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston.

“Overview of Emergency Management,” Sharon Nalls, emergency management coordinator, Office of Emergency Management, City of Houston.

For more information, call 713-470-1156.

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This news release was issued on November 9, 2006.