City Reviewing Plan for Pandemic Virus

City leaders are reviewing a plan for what to do in the case of a pandemic virus, such as bird flu, hitting the Houston area. Houston Public Radio's Laurie Johnson reports.

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In the middle of a busy emergency room at The Methodist Hospital ER Dr. Jeff Kalina stops for a moment to take a breath. In addition to treating emergency cases at the hospital, he's also in charge of developing a pandemic flu response plan for the Texas Medical Center.

"If we design a pandemic flu plan, it doesn't just have to be for pandemic flu. The cover would say pandemic flu but it could cover the flood of 2008, the hurricane of 2009. But if you set up the plan and the infrastructure for a community and a Texas Medical response to a disaster it'll be a very coordinated response."

Up till now, the different hospitals have developed their own individual plans with separate plans formed by the City of Houston and Harris County. Kalina's document will have everyone working from the same list of procedures, in the event of a pandemic flu event. And he says pandemics occur about every 40-50 years, so history shows it will happen again.

"You just don't know how it's going to happen. It's not going to be like a chemical attack at a stadium where you might have tens of thousands of people present within a three or four hour period. This is going to be something that's going to roll out over three to six months. So the coordination really is how are you going to triage the patients, where are you going to treat them, how are you going to treat them, how are you going to grade their severity etc."

The preliminary plan is being reviewed by city officials. Various hospitals and first responders will have an opportunity to provide feedback before the final plan is distributed to the Texas Medical Center organizations. Laurie Johnson, Houston Public Radio News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...