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Front Page − Public Health Agency Health official: being prepared best medicine; (The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton) PUBLICATION: DATE: PAGE: SECTION: BYLINE: WORD COUNT:

The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton) 2006.03.02 A1/A2 News JOEL O' 361

River Valley Health is preparing for a potential flu pandemic that, at its worst, could kill 42 people, hospitalize hundreds and afflict one−third of its medical staff. Dennis Doherty, director of emergency management, told the health authority's board Wednesday night there's no reason to panic because the numbers are based on worst−case scenarios and computer modelling. It's likely a real pandemic will be less severe, he said, but it doesn't hurt to be ready. Using the World Health Organization's (WHO) standard infection rate of 35 per cent, River Valley Health combined that number with local demographic information and plugged it into two computer modelling programs developed by the U.S.−based Center for Disease Control. River Valley Health also based its information on a pandemic taking three months to spread across the globe and lasting about eight weeks in one area. "It's just a rough model," Doherty said. "We could be widely off, but it gives us useful information for planning." In particular, he said, the model provides information on what resources will be needed and how the health system will be expected to react. Intensive care units, for example, might have to operate at 200 per cent of capacity. "There is a reason for concern," Doherty said. "People should be interested so we can start talking about this now." One computer model, FluAid, predicted about 8,475 people aged 0−18 would be infected, along with 4,003 people in the 65−plus age range. The vast majority of infections, 19,409, would affect the 19−64 age range. About 32,180 doses of flu vaccine would be required, tying up 2,682 hours in labour. Doherty said the amount of workers affected in the 19−64 age range could have implications for more than just River Valley Health. He said it could impact staffing levels in emergency and municipal organizations, retail stores and factories. He said more awareness is needed among municipalities and the private sector to start preparing now.



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