Williamson: Flu could be widespread

Published 11:11 am Wednesday, September 6, 2006

By By Lisa Tindell – news writer
A flu pandemic could spread like wildfire across the globe if it breaks out, state health officials told local community leaders Tuesday.
Williams addressed a group of health care workers and community leaders during a luncheon at D.W. McMillan Hospital to explain the need for planning in the event of an influenza pandemic.
Should the virus mutate, a bigger problem than feeling sick will be evident, Williams said.
Williamson said a virus capable of causing a pandemic has to meet three criteria, two of which are already evident.
Should an influenza pandemic hit the United States, the healthcare community would be the hardest hit, Williamson said.
Williamson said based on data from pandemic outbreaks in 1918, 1957 and 1968, Alabama hospitals would find it necessary to add up to 1,000 beds to accommodate the critically ill. But beds are not the biggest problem.
Williamson said year round testing is currently in place.
Dr. Daniel Raulerson, a Brewton physician, asked Williamson to explain just how the virus goes from bird, to pig, to human as indicated in the data presented.
This type of transmission has not been seen in the United States, Williamson said. He indicated the virus is airborne in nature and there is no evidence to show that insects are involved in the spreading of the disease.
Officials at McMillan Hospital have sponsored three such presentations in recent months and plan to have more planning sessions for area healthcare workers and community leaders.