Hawaii preparing for pandemic flu

State Of Hawaii Draft Pandemic Plan

Honolulu –- Hawaii plans to beef up its pandemic flu defenses by developing a data management system that will correlate a wide range of related information, said Dr. Paul Effler, the state’s epidemiologist.

More than 2 million people visit Hawaii from Asia each year, so the state has a greater exposure risk to a possible avian flu pandemic than other states. In fact, annual visitors from Asia, where the H5N1 variant of avian flu continues to spread, far outnumber Hawaii’s population of 1.2 million, “making us a small swimming pool with a huge flush rate,” Effler said, and putting the state on the front lines of any pandemic.

Last month Gov. Linda Lingle said she planned to add $15 million to the state’s budget next year to help prepare for a possible pandemic. Effler said he viewed an enhanced data management system as essential to the state’s defenses.

Hawaii’s legislature must approve Lingle’s budget, but if it does, Effler said he could spend as much as $1 million on the system.

“Correlation” is the central concept in developing such a system, Effler said. Various sections of the Department of Health and Human Services’ national pandemic plan released last month call for tracking the distribution and use of antiviral medications and vaccines. However, Effler said public health officials cannot manage such information in a piecemeal fashion and must be able to examine other factors such as patients’ pre-existing conditions.

Effler wants Hawaii’s system to incorporate and correlate all such data as well as information on patients in quarantine, which will help medical professionals determine, among other things, the efficacy of one course of treatment over another.

Effler said he wants to develop the system as quickly as possible but must wait for funding and the evaluation of potential architectures in a steadily growing pool of vendors’ suggestions.

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