HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt Joins Governor Sonny Perdue at Georgia Pandemic Planning Summit

WASHINGTON -- Acknowledging that pandemics happen and require a strong local response, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt signed a resolution, committing the state and federal government to planning efforts.  They did so before an audience of public health officials, business and community leaders, gathered to address pandemic flu preparedness. Leavitt is in Georgia as part of a national tour of states, as the federal government prepares the country for a potential influenza pandemic.

"Pandemics are global in nature but their effects are always local, so I am pleased that Gov. Perdue is taking a leadership role to prepare Georgia for this threat," Leavitt said.  "Pandemic planning needs to address how schools, businesses, public agencies, faith-based organizations and others participate in pandemic preparedness.  With this meeting, local officials can identify needs specific to Georgia communities and begin crucial coordination to assure readiness if a pandemic outbreak strikes."

"Of all the many hazards we face, a pandemic has the unique potential to disrupt our lives, our health care system and our economy," said Perdue. "Georgia's State Emergency Operations Plan, and our county and city emergency plans, provide the state with a robust plan consistent and supportive of national efforts."

In the planning resolution, HHS commits to providing guidance and technical assistance to Georgia; an initial amount of financial assistance for planning, $2,609,920; and agrees to review the state's plans for use, storage and distribution of antivirals and notify it of its portion of the federal stockpile of pandemic influenza antiviral drugs.  Georgia agrees to assure that its operational plan for pandemic influenza response is an integral element of the overall state and local emergency response plan and to establish a Pandemic Preparedness Coordinating Committee representing all relevant stakeholders.  The state will also notify HHS of the amount of additional pandemic influenza antiviral drugs it will plan to purchase and will exercise its preparedness plan within six months of today's summit.

The event is Georgia's first statewide gathering to address pandemic readiness planning, and will give a broad range of organizations an opportunity to participate in the process.  Invited guests included first responders, business leaders, educators, health care providers, faith-based organizations, volunteer agencies, policy makers and others.

Leavitt outlined a series of in-state summits to address pandemic preparedness Dec. 5.  The in-state summits will help the public health and emergency response community in each state inform and involve their political, economic and community leadership in this process.  Leavitt and other top HHS officials will participate in the meetings over the next few months.  HHS has also prepared tools to help with the planning process, including a state and local checklist, a business checklist, a guide for individuals and families, and a checklist for faith-based organizations. The guides were distributed at the summit.

More information on pandemic flu readiness is available at http://www.pandemicflu.gov.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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