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SAMHSA News - January/February 2006, Volume 14, Number 1

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Officials Plan for Flu Pandemic

As global concerns escalate over a potential flu pandemic, Federal officials say there's no reason for panic about any number of possible scenarios for the spread of avian flu, commonly called "bird flu."

"Prepare and plan" are the watchwords at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), where Secretary Mike Leavitt has launched a new information Web site, www.pandemicflu.gov. HHS is taking the lead on the Federal effort.

"As part of HHS, SAMHSA has a key role to play in planning and preparing for, responding to, and recovering from the behavioral health impact of a disaster," said SAMHSA Administrator Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.

At the White House, the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza details the Nation's approach to any possible flu threat. The three pillars of the White House strategy are preparedness and communication, surveillance and detection, and response and containment.

The HHS Pandemic Influenza Plan provides guidance to national, state, and local policymakers and health departments to achieve a state of readiness and quick response.

The HHS Plan offers an overview of the threat of pandemic influenza, an outline of key roles and responsibilities, and opportunities to increase basic public preparedness for a pandemic, including checklists on family health information and recommended supplies to have on hand at home.

Major components of the HHS Plan:

  • Intensify surveillance and collaboration on containment measures—both international and domestic.

  • Stockpile antivirals and vaccines, and expand production of these medical aids.

  • Create a seamless network of Federal, state, and local preparedness, especially to handle surges in health care needs.

  • Develop public education and communications efforts to keep the public informed.

Several overarching principles guide the HHS Plan, including close cooperation among Federal, state, and local governments and partners in the private sector, and an informed and responsive public.

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SAMHSA's Support

In addition to making sure people receiving mental health or substance abuse treatment continue to receive care, SAMHSA has an important role in helping people cope with mental and addictive disorders that may develop during a crisis, according to Daniel Dodgen, Ph.D., SAMHSA Emergency Management Coordinator.

For example, planning efforts must address how communities can carry out key functions when a large part of the workforce—including physicians, nurses, psychologists, drug treatment counselors, political leaders, and people of other professions—are not able to work due to illness.

Schools may be closed to control infection among children, forcing parents to stay home from work and possibly jeopardizing the financial stability of families. In addition, family members and caregivers of those who are ill may have to cope with strong feelings and perhaps grief.

Although the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak provided some important lessons, Dr. Dodgen said there is little research on how a pandemic influenza outbreak might contribute to mental and addictive disorders.

"SAMHSA will have a role in crafting important messages for the public," he said, "such as coping with fears about getting sick, dealing with the death of a loved one, or talking effectively with children about what they're thinking and feeling."

For more information, visit www.pandemicflu.govEnd of Article

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Avian versus Pandemic Flu

Avian flu and pandemic flu are two separate issues potentially connected by a viral leap between species.

  • Avian flu currently is an infection caused by viruses that occur naturally in birds. At this time, human beings are not easily susceptible to avian flu. However, some domesticated birds-including chickens, ducks, and turkeys-have become fatally infected and passed the virus to some people who tended them. Avian flu is one of many types of influenza that could lead to a pandemic.

  • Pandemic flu refers to a global threat from any new, rapidly spreading influenza virus for which there is little or no immunity in human beings.

For more information, visit www.hhs.gov/pandemicflu/
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Inside This Issue

Screening Adds Prevention to Treatment
Part 1
Part 2

From the Administrator: The Value of Screening

Officials Plan for Flu Pandemic

Mental Health Campaign for Hurricane Survivors

Transforming State Mental Health Systems

The Road Home: Veterans Conference Planned

Two Reports: Substance Use Among Veterans

Town Hall Meetings Planned on Underage Drinking

Underage Drinkers Seek Help in Emergency Rooms

SAMHSA Grant Opportunities

"Fine Line" Detailed in Portraits

Rebuilding Afghanistan's Mental Health System
Part 1
Part 2

Statistics Released on School Services

Adolescents, Adults Report Major Depression

Guidelines Released on Marijuana Counseling

2006 Recovery Month Web Site Launched

Reach Out Now!

Advisory Available on Acamprosate

SAMHSA News Information

SAMHSA News - January/February 2006, Volume 14, Number 1

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