Flu means money woes

Published 5:53 am Wednesday, July 19, 2006

By By LISA TINDELL – News reporter
Whether you call it the domino effect or the trickle down theory, the economic impacts caused by a flu pandemic would certainly touch everyone in the stricken area.
Planning ahead is essential in the case of a pandemic, Elliott said. Planning for all possible impacts could mean the difference between comfort and severe challenges.
Usual services may be disrupted that would be more far reaching than just the loss of the service. Services lost during a pandemic could include hospitals and other healthcare facilities, banks, restaurants, government offices, telephone and cellular phone companies and post offices, Elliott said.
The disruption of these services would cause a severe economic impact in any community, according to information released by the United States Department of Health and Human Services
If these services are disrupted due to a pandemic, the salaries of workers in those areas will be lost, the report says. Therefore, if salaries were lost the retail purchases would be diminished as well creating economic chaos in retail industries.
Avian influenza, also known as bird flu, is currently not a cause for concern in the human population, according to Tony Frazier, state veterinarian with the State Department of Agriculture and Industries.
If a pandemic were to occur within the poultry industry, a crippling effect would also be felt on the economy, Frazier said. Although a human death would be rare as a result of the avian influenza virus, the human population would surely feel the effects.
If the poultry industry in Alabama alone were lost, truckers would be without chicken to haul, grocers would be without chickens or eggs to sell and chicken farm workers would be without jobs according to Frazier.
Frazier further explained just how much revenue for the state is involved in the poultry industry by giving a breakdown of what is lost when an illness befalls a flock.
Frazier said the state ADI works closely with farmers across the state in a surveillance program to monitor each illness, including the potential for avian influenza among the flocks.
With the information presented concerning the economic loss of a human flu pandemic and the loss associated with a bird flu pandemic in the poultry industry, it is necessary to plan well in advance in the event that one should occur.
Planning needs to be done well in advance of necessity and well thought out, Elliott said.
In the information provided by Elliott at last week's summit, it is indicated that families should plan to store two weeks of nonperishable food and insure that formulas for infants and any special nutritional needs for others is part of the planning. Also storing one gallon of water per person per day for a two-week period is essential during the planning process.
The impact could be overwhelming in many areas, said Michael Leavitt, Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services.
The Alabama Department of Public Health, along with other state and federal offices, held a summit for Escambia County last week to help educate the public on how best to plan in the event of influenza pandemic. Elliott explained that through the cooperation the Alabama Department of Public Health, Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Center for Disease Control, a state-wide planning program and other summits are being presented in a concerted effort to information the public on concerns should a pandemic be forthcoming.
Public information on pandemic flu aspects can be found at www.pandemicflu.gov.

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