It has been almost 40 years since the last outbreak of the flu swept the globe, killing more than one million people worldwide. But, with experts predicting a worldwide influenza outbreak (pandemic) in the very near future, state health officials and emergency response officials are testing plans to ensure that Louisiana is ready to respond to the next flu pandemic.

This week, in conjunction with national preparedness month, the Department of Health Office of Public Health, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness and hospitals throughout the state will participate in a training exercise designed to test the health care system’s ability to respond to a large-scale outbreak in Louisiana.

(See below for listing of participating hospitals.)

This two-day drill will simulate the spread of the flu around the world, in the United States and in Louisiana. The exercise includes various scenarios and events which might happen during an actual pandemic. This includes tracking the spread of the disease, public reporting, communicating health messages, setting up dispensing sites to dispense medications and properly directing the public.

Both the Department of Health and the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness will open up and staff their emergency operations centers for the duration of the drill.

Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer, says it is critical that the ability to properly respond to a major health emergency, such as the pandemic flu, be tested at the state and local levels. “Just as we have learned about preparing for hurricanes, the reality is that it is not a matter of if an outbreak of pandemic proportions occurs, but when it will occur.”

In October, the drill will continue when DHH’s Office of Public Health sets up nine medication dispensing sites throughout the state. At those clinics, health workers and volunteers will offer seasonal flu vaccine to residents who come to the site. Health officials hope to vaccinate 200 people per hour at each site.

“October’s training will have the twofold benefit of better preparing our citizens for the actual flu season, and it will allow us to discover any weaknesses in our plan that can then be improved,” added Guidry.

What: Full Scale Pandemic Flu Exercise
Where: LDH Emergency Operations Center, 8919 World Ministry Avenue, Suite B in Baton Rouge
When: September 6-7, 2007 (reporters can interview participants at the EOC Thursday morning)


New Orleans Area
East Jefferson General Hospital

Baton Rouge Area
Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center
Earl K. Long Medical Center

Houma-Thibodaux Area
Terrebonne General Hospital

Lafayette Area
Lafayette General Medical Center  
Lafayette Surgical Specialty Hospital
LSU-University Medical Center  
Optima Specialty Hospital
Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center
Savoy Medical Center
Southwest Medical Center   
Women’s and Children’s Hospital
American Legion Hospital   
Compass Behavioral Center of Crowley
Heart Hospital of Lafayette

Lake Charles Area
Lake Charles Memorial Hospital  
West Calcasieu Cameron Hospital
Jennings American Legion Hospital  
Beauregard Memorial Hospital
Allen Parish Hospital    
Christus St. Patrick Hospital

Alexandria Area
St. Frances Cabrini Hospital   
Rapides Regional Medical Center
Bayne-Jones Army Hospital (Fort Polk) 
LaSalle General Hospital
Huey P. Long Medical Center
Hardtner Medical    
Winn Hospital
Specialty Hospital of Winnfield  
Dubuis Hospital
Crossroads Regional Hospital

Shreveport Area
Christus Schumpert Health System

Monroe Area
St. Frances Hospital

Northshore Area
St. Tammany Parish Hospital
North Oaks Hospital