State Health Officials Readying for Bird Flu

Janice Okubo, State Department of Health spokesperson.
Janice Okubo, State Department of Health spokesperson.

HONOLULU (KHNL) - The time to prepare is now. Some scientists are saying a pandemic flu is imminent. When it comes to protection from avian, or bird flu, Hawaii ranks third in the nation.

"We are doing well compared to the rest of the nation, but certainly we can do better," says Janice Okubo, State Department of Health spokesperson.

Prevention is key. That's why in November, the state began a surveillance program at Honolulu International Airport. Recently, Governor Linda Lingle appropriated $11 million for surveillance and stockpile antiviral drugs," like Tamiflu.

"Were looking at stockpiling approximately 25% of the population, that's estimated the amount of people who will become ill in the event of a pandemic," says Okubo.

To date, 132-people from 11-countries have died from the virus. Experts fear it could mutate into a strain that could pass easily from one person to another, sparking a pandemic that would travel around the globe in weeks or months.

"With the world becoming so global with travel people going back and forth, disease issues are coming more important, especially with Hawaii being a cornerstone of travel," says Okubo.

The department of health says its important to have a family plan. daycares, schools and workplaces could be shutdown. You should have enough food and water to last you two-weeks, and make a list of medications you take.

"You may have to take into consideration the possibility schools and daycares may be closed and how you take care of your children. How might you work from home if you're not able to go into the office?" says Okubo.

As part of the state's awareness program, DOH has posted pandemic information on its website and is holding a workshop for business and community leaders on june 14th.