State Officials and Educators Practice School Closing in Pandemic Flu Tabletop

For Immediate Release: January 24 , 2007

Contact: Communication Office

BURLINGTON – The Vermont Department of Health will rehearse its ability to slow the spread of pandemic influenza on Thursday by closing schools, canceling public gatherings and voluntarily isolating people who are ill during an eight-hour ‘Tabletop’ Exercise.

Participants will respond to a widespread outbreak of pandemic influenza in Vermont that, at its peak, could affect one out of three Vermonters.

“This is a drill that is designed to inform and educate key members of the community about measures we may need to take as a State to slow the spread of pandemic influenza,” said Health Commissioner Sharon Moffatt, RN, MSN.

“Community-based measures, such as closing schools, could potentially save many lives - especially children who are among the highest at-risk population.”

More than 100 leaders from multiple state agencies, educators, members of the business community, schools, day cares and churches from Burlington and Waterbury will participate in the exercise hosted by the Vermont Department of Health at the Sheraton Conference Center in South Burlington.

“The goal is to practice, along with our partners, what our response would be and then make refinements to our pandemic flu response plan,” Commissioner Moffatt said. “We would need to enlist the help of every Vermonter at the community level to prevent the spread of disease to family, friends, neighbors and colleagues.”

An influenza pandemic is a global outbreak that occurs when a new type of flu surfaces and rapidly spreads from person to person. Three influenza pandemics have occurred during the 20th century, starting with the “Spanish Flu” of 1918-1919, that resulted in more than 500,000 deaths in the United States.

During the scenario, pandemic influenza will rapidly spread throughout the United States, leading local governments to consider non-pharmaceutical countermeasures such as school closings and social distancing.
Pre-pandemic planning is vital because unlike a usual flu season a vaccine may not be available for many months or may only be available in a limited supply.

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