Hawaii Battles Bird Flu Pandemic in Drill - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii Battles Bird Flu Pandemic in Drill

Lt. Colonel Jimmy Barrow Lt. Colonel Jimmy Barrow

By Beth Hillyer

KALAELOA (KHNL) - The scenario is simple. Passengers from Indonesia are diverted here and many have flu-like symptoms.

The exercise is to test our first responders and see if they are ready to handle a massive outbreak of bird flu on board an airliner.

Mission accomplished.  Everyone from U.S. Customs to the military to local doctors and nurses participated.

First they parked the plane out there to keep the sick passengers far away.

Then they carefully treated each one here in what became a field hospital.

This Coast Guard plane arrives with passengers injured in a simulated plane crash on Midway Island.  On the way to Hawaii, sickness spreads throughout the cabin. Air Force Flight Doctor Lt. Colonel Jimmy Barrow explains, "This plane would have actually had 60 people if we were doing this for real."

Hawaii is the first state to practice this type of pandemic response.

Joint Task Force Commander Lt. Colonel Ed Toy adds, "It's definitely the largest where we have both military and civil authorities side by side."

The first task since most of the passengers have flu like symptoms linked to bird flu is isolating the rescue plane. Everyone's in danger.

A doctor is briefed on the sick and injured. Many need immediate care.

Patients are moved off the plane, into an ambulance and on onto a field hospital. This entire hangar is transformed into a hospital with communication systems and a triage center.

It's so realistic, planners include handicapped passengers.

Barrow says, "We have one blind person with a seeing eye dog so be loading her."

Some patients are packed in isolation suits and transported to local hospitals. Others are kept in quarantine to determine whether they test positive for the bird flu. So how did the exercise go? Organizers says they now feel prepared to handle a pandemic.

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