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Originally published Wednesday, November 28, 2007 at 12:00 AM

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Snohomish

Plan of action drafted for flu pandemic

The Snohomish Health District will utilize locations generally along the Interstate 5 corridor to treat residents during pandemic flu should...

Times Snohomish County Bureau

Flu pandemic

Snohomish Health District: To view Snohomish County's plan in the event of a pandemic flu event, go to www.snohd.org/#and click on "Pandemic Influenza Plan" on the left side of the page.

The Snohomish Health District will utilize locations generally along the Interstate 5 corridor to treat residents during pandemic flu should hospital beds no longer be available, officials said last week.

In addition, the health district will open triage centers for diagnosing how much care is needed in seven cities throughout Snohomish County.

The new information on where treatment centers will be found is part of the health district's latest written plan on how to tackle a pandemic-flu event and is based partly on work already completed in King and Pierce counties.

During the past year, local health officials and emergency responders met to create a plan of action. The health district will now use that formula to begin educating medical staff members on proper procedure.

A pandemic-flu event occurs when people have little or no immunity to a new virus and there's no vaccine to combat it. The virus then can spread quickly.

Assuming a pandemic-flu episode would fill local hospitals, the health district says it must have alternate sites for inpatient medical care. The health district says it will use the Everett Events Center, Edmonds Community College and either the middle school or high school in Arlington.

The health district also hopes to find a suitable location in eastern Snohomish County, but at this point, none has been identified that could handle patients for an average of two to five days, said Dr. Gary Goldbaum, the health district's medical officer. Any site also must be able to house medical staff and have an area to serve as an active kitchen.

But at least one triage center will be located in Monroe, according to the plan, to help assess how serious an individual's flu symptoms are. Triage centers also will be located in Arlington, Edmonds, Everett, Marysville, Mill Creek and Stanwood.

These centers would assess patients looking for medical care, and based on that, make the decision whether a patient is sent to a hospital or back home and whether they will receive antiviral medications that Goldbaum said would be in short supply if a pandemic occurs.

"I think if we can hold off a pandemic for a year or so, we'll be in much better shape because of the advancing technology, both in terms of antivirals and vaccines," he said. "But there won't be enough antivirals for prophylactic care."

First to receive any vaccine or treatment will be medical and emergency workers because they are key to protecting the public, Goldbaum said. Then, medical providers will follow a federally approved dispersal list, much as has occurred annually for flu-vaccine distribution.

Also key to the plan is communication. A tight structure, with the health district's medical officer at the top, would keep all medical facilities on the same page, Goldbaum said.

Now that the plan is available, health district staff members will be evaluating reaction from local clinics and hospitals. Some tweaking may be needed, but the core shouldn't change, officials said.

Christopher Schwarzen: 425-745-7813 or cschwarzen@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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