Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Arm yourself with knowledge on avian flu

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Sunday, May 07, 2006

PALMER—The dire consequences of a pandemic flu, as depicted in an upcoming ABC television show, are a worst-case outcome of the bird flu; it is certainly not the probable outcome if we all prepare and follow common sense precautions. How should the general public react if pandemic flu occurs in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough? What precautions should be taken to protect you and your family? What can individual residents do to prevent a pandemic from spreading in the Borough?These are questions that you may have already pondered, or questions you may ponder after watching the made-for-TV movie, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America" airing May 9, on ABC. "Fatal Contact" will play off a person's worst fears of a pandemic in America. Although possible, this type of future is not inevitable. The show muddies the line between fact and fiction. An outbreak of flu can be snuffed out like a forest fire with proper local planning, response, and full cooperation from each and every citizen. Alaska governmental agencies, including the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, have been preparing for a flu pandemic for months. Scientists have been testing wild birds in Alaska for the strain since last year. No bird has tested positive to date. An educational campaign is underway in the Bush, where locals hunt migratory birds. Government officials of different entities are laying out the plans for what would be needed in each community, such as extra hospital space. It makes sense to prepare locally more than ever. President Bush recently announced the National Pandemic Plan and revealed that local governments must rely on themselves if a pandemic occurs. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is actively coordinating our prevention and response activities with state agencies such as the Department of Public Health, and has formed a Tri-Borough alliance to ensure that we initiate the same preventive measures and actions simultaneously. In the event of a pandemic, a few actions that may be initiated are:

  • Consistent communications from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to the public on precautions
  • The closing of public facilities in the interests of public health
  • Actions to ensure that essential government, utility and business services have appropriate staffing policies to remain open
  • Non-essential services might be closed
  • School closures

In June, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough will host a series of community outreach programs to discuss avian flu, beginning with a two-day session conducted by the Alaska State Department of Public Health. Meanwhile, to learn more about pandemic flu, log onto: A first and important step you can take is to prepare an emergency supply of food, water, and health care items. Because the flu would last longer than a week, that supply should be for several weeks. A checklist for family supplies is attached. For more information, contact Emergency Services Director Dennis Brodigan at 373-8815.