"Although Arizona's most recent version of its plan is an improvement, we may be running out of time to put the best possible plan into place," said Vincent A. Fulginiti, M.D., chair of the committee that wrote the report and former Chancellor, University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and Professor Emeritus, Pediatrics at The University of Arizona. "There is a real possibility that Avian Influenza, carried by migratory birds, could arrive on the North American continent yet this year. Of equal concern are the continuing new cases in Asia and elsewhere of people contracting the virus from infected birds. In a few instances of prolonged exposure to an infected person, the virus has shown the ability to spread slowly to others. It may be sooner rather than later that the virus adapts to spread more easily and very quickly from person to person. If this occurs in a period of months rather than years, Arizona and virtually every other state will be caught very under-prepared."
"This possibility forces a 'what must be done first' approach to preparedness planning to ensure that a basic capability to respond can be achieved rapidly, while at the same time, a longer term effort is underway to put in place the optimal - or most complete - response. AASTA's report focuses on the immediate near term steps necessary to achieve a basic threshold response", Fulginiti said.
The committee reviewed the Arizona Department of Public Health's most recent plan for responding to a pandemic outbreak of Avian Influenza following a conference held on the topic in late April 2006. The committee found that the plan, while quite detailed and improved over the previous version, could be made much more effective in several ways.
The report recommends that the Arizona Department of Health: strengthen its communications strategies, especially by identifying a single, reliable, trustworthy spokesperson; clarify overlapping responsibilities between itself, other state agencies, and county health departments; integrate local and state law enforcement and public safety into planning scenarios; inventory, certify and engage volunteer organizations; address the needs of vulnerable populations; plan for the management of fatalities, protect vital services and supply chains; and develop models to understand the financial impact that a pandemic will have on state and local government revenues and expenditures.
The Arizona Arts, Sciences and Technology Academy is a private, nonprofit institution whose volunteer members provide expert analysis as a public service.
Copies of "Ensuring an Effective Avian Influenza Pandemic Response: An Assessment of Arizona's Preparedness", and an executive summary "Issue Brief" are available from the Arizona Arts, Sciences and Technology Academy; tel. 602-619-6441 or on the Internet at http://www.