Flu season is coming to an end, and there have not been any widespread outbreaks of the flu in Louisiana. Nor have there been any confirmed cases of avian flu in humans in the United States. Finally, although there has been much attention, there has not been a flu epidemic, much less a flu pandemic.

Even without a serious flu season, experts are still predicting that the world will soon face a flu pandemic, an outbreak of the disease that is global in nature. The ongoing process to prepare for a flu pandemic will be explained Tuesday, April 25 by Gov. Kathleen Blanco at the Pandemic Flu Summit in Baton Rouge

The Summit will be held on the 4th floor of the Capitol in the Governor’s Press Conference Room. The event begins at 10 a.m. Gov. Blanco will be joined by DHHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, Dr. Fred Cerise, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, and Louisiana State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. Other public health and elected officials will be attending the Summit.

According to Dr. Guidry, summits such as this are being held in each state to ensure the entire country is ready for a widespread outbreak of the flu.

“An outbreak could begin anywhere, at any time,” Guidry said. “That is why planning for a response to pandemic flu is one of the top priorities in Louisiana, as well as a top priority of every state health department.”

Louisiana’s plan will include an early warning system that identifies and tracks new flu strains, plan for the quick distribution of antiviral medications and other vaccines, discuss how to contain the spread of the disease, education for health care professionals and providing accurate information to the public.

Louisiana has been working closely with the federal departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, as well as the Louisiana Department of Public Safety, other public health agencies and first responders to develop and enhance its efforts to prepare for responding to a possible influenza pandemic.

WHAT:     Pandemic Flu Summit
WHERE:   Baton Rouge, State Capitol Press room, 4th Floor
WHEN:     Tuesday, April 25, 2006, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.