Pandemic preparedness road show begins in Minnesota

first_imgDec 14, 2005 (CIDRAP News) – National health officials came to Minnesota today to launch what was billed as the first of 50 state pandemic influenza planning meetings around the nation, emphasizing the key roles of state and local governments as partners with the federal government.The general theme of the half-day conference was that much, if not most, of the real work of preparing for a pandemic must be done at the local and state levels.An audience that nearly packed the auditorium at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul heard that pandemic preparedness consists of much more than a plan on paper or an intention to stockpile antiviral drugs.”Hope is not a plan,” said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Michael O. Leavitt said, “A plan represents our aspiration; being prepared is what we’ve demonstrated in the context of an exercise.”Accordingly, he said HHS and Minnesota officials will conduct a joint tabletop pandemic preparedness exercise sometime in the next 6 months.State and local health officials made clear the need for preparations. In a pandemic, 260,000 people in the Twin Cities might be sick at the same time, and 10,000 may need to be hospitalized—far more than the area’s current surge capacity of 2,500 to 3,500 hospital beds, said Mark Lappe, metropolitan regional hospital resources coordinator.Federal officials came to listenLeavitt highlighted the mission of this and subsequent state-level meetings with three points: pandemics happen; they are difficult to discuss and anticipate; and the federal officials didn’t come to Minnesota to “impose” their ideas.”Any state, any community, or for that matter any citizen that failed to prepare, assuming the federal government will take care of them in a pandemic, they’re wrong,” Leavitt said.Leavitt tailored his presentation to Minnesota. He described historical accounts of the 1918 pandemic in his childhood home of Cedar City, Utah, as well as the spread of pandemic flu in Minnesota, where, he said, the virus sickened more than 75,000 people and killed nearly 12,000.”There is no rational reason to believe that things will be biologically different today than they were in 1918,” he said. It’s important for states to contemplate the cascading consequences of pandemic response now: for example, school closures will affect workplaces, movement restrictions will affect trade, and shortages of supplies will mean setting priorities.The federal government’s preparations and funding are a step toward the federal fulfillment of its role, Leavitt said. In 5 years, the nation could have new cell-based flu vaccines, end shortages of annual flu vaccine, and develop stockpiles of other medications and supplies.But he said the federal government cannot handle a flu pandemic alone. He illustrated his point with a computer model of a pandemic beginning in Thailand. The model showed it would spread to the United States in 30 days and become widespread in the country over 6 weeks.”A pandemic could be unfolding in every community in a nation, simultaneously. . . . We would likely be managing it on not just hundreds but thousands of fronts at the same time,” Leavitt said. “A response to a pandemic absolutely must be at a state and local level.”DHS emphasizes partnershipsJeff Runge, MD, chief medical officer for the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), likened pandemic initiatives to increasing seatbelt use and decreasing drunk driving–federal efforts that succeeded only because of effective local actions.He also emphasized the role of partnerships among federal agencies and between federal, state, and local agencies.”It will take Homeland Security and public health working together as one” to respond effectively, Runge said. He likened the partnership to a three-legged race, in which agencies link up and develop the proper pace to cross the finish line.Runge also emphasized the importance of developing relationships now. “As we learned from Hurricane Katrina, catastrophic planning cannot take place in the midst of a disaster,” he said. He urged local and state officials to collaborate with DHS’s office of state and local government coordination.Minnesota Gov. Pawlenty said today’s event was an opportunity to “bring our best together to prepare for the worst.” He added that the invitees included representatives from faith and tribal communities, poultry growers, and others, while emphasizing the importance of nongovernmental preparations as well.”Dealing with a pandemic means every institution in society has a role to play,” Pawlenty said. “This is not just the government’s responsibility alone.”Julie Gerberding, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), described the threat posed by the H5N1 avian flu virus, now widespread in Asia. The virus has infected 138 people and killed 71 but has not found a way to spread easily from person to person. The virus’s acquisition of that ability would probably bring a pandemic.If that event happens in a relatively isolated rural area, Gerberding said, “There is a good chance that we could quench it.” But if it happens in an urban area, containment won’t be possible, she predicted.Vaccine and antiviral suppliesGerberding sketched HHS’s preparations involving vaccines and antiviral drugs. The goal is to amass enough of the prototype H5N1 vaccine to protect 20 million people—a tall order, given that it takes a much bigger dose of this vaccine than of ordinary flu vaccine to provide protection.HHS hopes to acquire 81 million treatment courses of antiviral drugs, mainly Tamiflu (oseltamivir), but has only about 4.3 million courses on hand now, Gerberding said.Later, Leavitt cautioned people not to pin too much hope on antivirals. “People have begun to equate preparedness with antivirals, and that’s a misnomer,” he said. “It’s not a certainty that Tamiflu or any antiviral will be a cure or be the key to prevention. . . . It’ll shorten the symptoms, but it’s not a solution.”He explained that HHS intends to allocate 50 million of the projected 81 million courses of antivirals to the states. A small part of the remainder (previously listed as 6 million doses) will be kept as an emergency reserve to keep the government running. The rest (pegged at 25 million courses) will be distributed to states that are willing to pay 75% of the cost.”If Minnesota decided its share [of the 50 million courses] wasn’t enough, we would be prepared to help them buy more antivirals and to subsidize it to the tune of 25%,” Leavitt explained.In a backgrounder on avian flu viruses, John Clifford, DVM, of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) explained that not all H5N1 viruses are to be feared. “Every H5N1 virus is not the same,” he said. “There’s an H5N1 virus in North America that’s low-pathogenic and that’s not the same as H5N1 in Asia.” The H and the N refer to just two of the flu virus’s eight genes, he said.If the dangerous H5N1 virus in Asia is going to reach North America, it will most likely travel in birds following the Alaska flyway, said Clifford, chief veterinarian for the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.Wildlife officials have taken 12,000 samples from birds in Alaska in the past 7 years and have not seen the virus, Clifford said. Birds using the Atlantic flyway are also being tested, he added.If the Asian strain of H5N1 reaches US shores, the USDA’s goal will be to eradicate it, Clifford said. The agency has a stockpile of 40 million doses of avian flu vaccines for poultry, including 20 million doses that are effective against the H5N1 Asian strain, he added.Minnesota’s pandemic planMinnesota Health Commissioner Dianne Mandernach said Minnesota was one of the first states to develop a pandemic plan, starting in 1999. She outlined a variety of measures under way or envisioned in the plan:For surveillance, the state has 27 hospitals and clinics that routinely report flu cases to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), which is closely linked to the CDC, she said.The state legislature recently clarified state laws on isolation and quarantine.The MDH is working with local agencies around the state to make sure that people who would be isolated or quarantined in a pandemic would have access to essential services.The state would close or cancel public venues and events if necessary, including even church services. “We would discontinue church services, and that would be very, very difficult for many people,” Mandernach said.The MDH has a program to provide health information to the roughly 11% of Minnesotans who don’t understand or speak English. Called Emergency and Community Health Outreach (ECHO), the program provides messages in six languages.The state is tracking hospital resources and considering options for setting up and staffing overflow facilities.Last week state officials practiced how they would distribute a shipment of medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, a task that requires multiple approaches.One concern is a shortage of mechanical ventilators. “We do not have and will not have enough ventilators in Minnesota,” Mandernach said. “So it’s really going to be a matter of planning for and maximizing the use of resources.”She also called for individuals to prepare for a pandemic by taking steps such as stockpiling some water and food. “A two-way radio should be on our Christmas list this year,” she said.In conclusion, Mandernach said, “We are in a marathon, and there is no finish line. The day that we think we’re prepared is the day that we’ve lost the race.”Hospital infection control to be crucialLappe, the Minneapolis–St. Paul region’s hospital resource coordinator, was one of a long succession of local officials who spoke on their pandemic preparations. He said rigorous infection-control practices in hospitals will be an important part of coping with a pandemic. That means providing the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to staff members and making sure they use it.Lappe predicted very heavy use of PPE in a pandemic. For example, he estimated that a hospital with 88 nurses who changed their gloves about every 10 minutes would go through 16,000 boxes of gloves in 8 weeks.He also said hospital staff members will need to make their own personal and family preparations for a pandemic. He estimated that only about 1% of the 4,500 employees at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis have begun preparing. “I feel we need to make it mandatory for staff to do something” to prepare for a pandemic, he said.George Gerlach, administrator of Granite Falls Municipal Hospital and Manor in southwestern Minnesota, said the pandemic planning goal for expanding hospital surge capacity in his rural area seems nearly impossible.A few years ago, he said, hospitals in his 16-county region were advised to develop a surge capacity of 500 beds. That seemed “insurmountable” at first, but the region has made progress.”In contrast to the 500-patient surge capacity we’ve prepared for . . . the numbers for pandemic flu are overwhelming,” he said. “We’ve been advised to prepare for three to five times our current surge capacity” and to be able to maintain that level for several months.In other comments at the meeting, Gov. Pawlenty said Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of CIDRAP, which publishes this Web site, is organizing a “national business summit” on pandemic preparedness.David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, said the business summit will be “a 2-day session in February where we’ll walk small, medium, and large companies through what they can do to prepare for this.”last_img read more

Young scientist program helps teach robotics

first_imgThe USC Young Scientist Program held a computer science and robotics workshop Wednesday afternoon at the 32nd Street School. The event was a joint effort between the Joint Education Project, YSP and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, and was sponsored by the Winn family and Union Bank. The workshop included three stations designed to teach the nearly 50 fourth and fifth graders in attendance basic coding and robotics skills.Directed by Dieuwertje Kast, the STEM program manager at JEP and a USC alumna, about 10 USC students volunteering with JEP helped teach elementary school students about computer science and robotics, fields that senior physics and computer science major Michael Qian sees as vital to their success today.“Especially today, you can go into any field and knowing a little something about computers and how they work is somehow going to help you,” Qian said. “I think being able to have kids start learning at a younger age how computers work on the inside, how programming, how coding works … that’s definitely going to help them later on.”The 32nd Street School is one of five in the “USC Family of Schools” that works with YSP to engage more than 1,400 elementary school students in hands-on STEM education. These workshops aim to pique students’ interests in the field, and previous workshop topics have included underwater robotics, sustainability and fitness. YSP workshops often include guests working in the industry, such as USC alumnae Logan (’07, ’11) and Blade Olson (’11), who attended the event Wednesday as a robotics design representatives from Disney Consumer Products and Interactive.“We’re essentially here to make sure these kids learn something cool about robotics and answer any questions they have about what we do or how we use coding or robotics in our jobs,” Logan Olson said. “But I think it’s most important that these kids have a lot of fun.”The 50 kids present, all of whom were selected through an application process by their interest, each chose one of three stations: basic coding using an interface called Scratch, making cardboard robots called Recyclobots that students could control with hand-drawn remotes or programming toothbrush robots called Bristlebots to paint and draw. With these activities and special guests, Kast said that she hoped participants learned some valuable lessons.“What I hope they take away from today is an appreciation for what computer science currently does for them, but also that they can get the skills to be able to do this themselves and potentially get a job in the field in the future,” Kast said.Fifth graders Michelle Naranjo and Pedro Rojas seemed to have no trouble understanding the possibilities which computer science and robotics can provide. As they worked meticulously on their cardboard Recyclobots, trying to make the best one to win a “swag bag” donated by Disney, they discussed their interest in robotics and engineering.“I love robotics, and computer science and anything having to do with it,” Naranjo said. “I also came because there’s less women doing engineering and I want to help it.”Rojas echoed Naranjo’s enthusiasm, highlighting the infinite creative possibilities that robotics allows.“What inspired me to enter robotics is that there is a lot of engineering in it, a lot of coding, a lot of building — everything,“ Rojas said. “Whatever pops into my mind, I can just create it and that’s why I like robotics.”last_img read more

Bengals’ receiving corps takes another hit with John Ross hamstring injury

first_imgCincinnati continues to be plagued by injuries.The Bengals’ receiving corps has thinned even more this week, as the team announced Monday that wideout John Ross is dealing with a hamstring injury. Ross is expected to be out for around two weeks. “The back end of that receiver room, other than our three guys who have typically been starters, I think have really shown great attention to detail,” Taylor told reporters. “Those guys have really come out. Obviously I notice it a little bit more. I’ve been in the receiver room before, so those guys, I tend to keep an eye on.”I’ve been really impressed, really, with everybody in that room these first two days. Their attention to detail has been great. The mental errors have been extremely few and they’ve really competed and caught a lot of balls. Done a good job through the first few days but they’ve got to keep that up.” Ezekiel Elliott contract rumors: Negotiations progressing, Cowboys could make him highest-paid RB Panthers ‘concerned’ about Christian McCaffrey’s touches, Norv Turner sayscenter_img Wideout A.J. Green, a seven-time Pro Bowl player, was carted off the field Saturday at training camp after tearing ligaments in his ankle and could miss anywhere from six to eight weeks. He’s been a crucial part of Cincinnati’s offense since he was drafted in 2011.Fourth-year receiver Tyler Boyd had a breakout season last year, notching 76 receptions for seven touchdowns and 1,028 yards. But, the rest of the receiving group is rounded out by Cody Core, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone and Auden Tate. Those four combined for just 374 receiving yards in 2018.The Bengals hired a new head coach in Zac Taylor and a new offensive coordinator in Brian Callahan during the offseason, so the team will certainly have a new feel. Ross clocked a blazing fast 4.22 in the 40-yard dash at the 2017 NFL Combine, but played in just three games and didn’t record a reception in his rookie season, despite being selected with the No. 9 overall in the draft. However, he did catch 21 passes for 210 yards in 2018.Ross is expected to be among quarterback Andy Dalton’s favorite targets this season, but Cincinnati’s depth chart is looking thin. Related Newslast_img read more