More than 100 people, mainly in Europe, have died from the Avian or bird flu and on Tuesday the Mesa County Health Department recalled the last major pandemic and urged local preparation for the next one.
Many experts are speculating that the Avian strain of influenza could spur the next pandemic and with birds starting to migrate to warmer climates, within the next year, the United States could see its first cases of the flu. The last major pandemic occurred in 1918, killing more than 20-million people worldwide and more than 100 in Mesa County. Mesa County Health Director Dr. Michael Aduddell says simply, now is a time to prepare, not panic.
Tuesday's presentation began with a look at the 1918 influenza pandemic, which killed more than 650–thousand people in the U.S., 20-million around the globe and 130 in Mesa County. The first death from the flu in Mesa County happened in Oct. 1918, with the last case reported in Feb. 1919. Through research, Dr. Aduddell and local author and historian Dave Fischell noted the flu did not discriminate and claimed the lives of infants, the elderly and every age in between. According to Dr. Aduddell, the difference between preparedness now and the early 20th century is that there's an abundance of information that's readily available and with this information, it's important to plan now, especially at the local level.
There are plans taking shape at the federal and local levels. The Mesa County Pandemic Influenza Planning Committee is in the works and will establish planning priorities and oversee development and the execution of that plan once it's developed. The committee will also cross–train health employees for essential service functions during a pandemic and will also launch a community education program.