Saturday, July 20, 2024


Westport “Well Prepared” for Bird Flu Pandemic

By Ed Kiersh

They hope it will never happen, but Westport officials are refining their plans for an Avian influenza or bird flu Image
Westport Weston Health District Director Sue Jacozzi, pictured at the District today, says Westport is constantly studying how to be a step ahead in pandemic flu preparations. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Ed Kiersh for

After attending a regional meeting Thursday of police, fire, and emergency care givers at Fairfield University, Westport Weston Health District Director Susan M.Jacozzi said today the town is well prepared.

“Westport’s local plan is very good,” she said. “We have doctors advising us and we have a very good relationship with first-responders.”

Jacozzi, who has served in her post for almost two years, said, “It’s a worry that we don’t have anti-virals or a vaccine. Yet we are constantly thinking of what could happen, and trying to be a step ahead.”

She commended Westport’s Town Hall officials, police, fire, and EMS workers as being her “support line.”

“No one is taking Avian flu, or another flu strain lightly,” she said.

“Until we have enough vaccine, and can treat the whole population, we won’t be comfortable. So we are constantly updating measures, working with the schools, hospitals, planning to run mass (vaccine) dispensing clinics, doing everything to meet different contingencies.”

Jacozzi meets with First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and town emergency planners every two weeks. They are being advised by Dr. Stuart Steinman of Westport, who has been researching Avian flu for several years. His involvement gives Jacozzi added comfort.

“I have some bad nights worrying about the unexpected,” admits Jacozzi. “But as I sensed at Thursday’s meeting, Westport is ahead of other many communities in terms of planning.

“Ever since 9/11 Westport officials, fire, police, EMS, have been really involved in emergency planning and the potential fallout from bio-terrorism.”

Yet Jacozzi doesn’t want local residents to grow complacent. She urges them to take precautions.

“I think we are a few years off from the flu’s striking,” she said. “But people must store enough food and water now, as if they were preparing for a hurricane.

“I also urge people to have all their medical information in one spot. Gather it now, not when they are hysterical. They should also stock up on masks and hand sanitizers. Getting Tamiflu is also a step that can be taken. It lasts three to five years.”

These measures will be stressed in September when the Health District launches a preparedness campaign.

“We’ve discovered that a lot of people know what to do, but they are not doing it because the fear is ‘If I do it, then the pandemic will strike,’” said Jacozzi.

“We can’t put it out of our minds. We must be prepared for emergencies.”

7 thoughts on “Westport “Well Prepared” for Bird Flu Pandemic

  1. Thanks, Chris.  You took the words right out of my mouth.

    Seems to me that bird flu, swine flu and whatever other kind of dread mocus or catastrophic event the First Selectman can dream up should be waaaaaay down on his list of priorities.  This has gotten to be a joke.  And not a funny one.

  2. It is good to see the town is preparing. The H5N1 bird flu virus is now spreading again in France and Germany. It is just a matter of time before infected birds migrate from Siberia to Alaska, Canada and the USA. For those who want more info on preparedness, a free Individual and Family Guide to Pandemic Bird Flu Preparedness can be downloaded at:

  3. Roy , you are way out of line. The H5N1 is a global threat and it is admirable that Gordon has the forethought to address planning .  Realize it is not only the threat of the death rate but the fact that if the virus alters genetically as expected the rate of infection and the severity of the strain will cause absentee rates of 30-60 %  Firemen, police, healthcare workers , store employees, utility workers and the expected absence is up to 2 months.  Add to this there could be two or three waves of infection in 3-4 months post first infection wave.
    With out a plan there could be anarchy and confusion when all the services and supplies we take so for granted as Americans are interrupted.
    Milk disappears, no gas, electric disruptions and cablevision goes off. 
    The threat is real, it has happened before, antivirals only go so far to help.  People get real sick or need to tend to their families and absenteeism is a huge problem.  Thus planning must be in place. The same planning covers other disease threats and bio terrorism attacks.  ALL ARE REAL and so thank you Gordon, we don’t agree on a lot but here you are spot on !

  4. Chip – are you referring to me being “out of line” insofar as requesting the Westport Pandemic Plan be published? or are you referring to my accusation that the residents of Westport are not being adequately informed so they can decide how best prepare their homes and families for what will surely be a 3 or more month catastrophic and horrific experience?

    I am trying to Free the Wilton Pandemic Plan as well.

    Bottom line Chip, the people need to know what they may be facing and how best to deal with it.

    While I agree with your statement that there are other threats to be ready for, the WHO has stated numerous times that the greatest health threat we face today is Pandemic H5N1. And if you are ready for that, you are ready for almost everything else.

  5. Dr. Robert Webster – foremost influenza researcher says H5N1 is the scariest virus he has ever seen and there is a 50% chance of it going pandemic.
    Dr. Michael Osterholm – Infectious disease expert says if H5N1 becomes a pandemic, we are screwed.
    Dr. David Nabarro – UN Chief coordinator of avian influenza surveillance and treatment says we have “God Given Time” to prepare for this pandemic.

    All three are surprised H5N1 has not yet gone pandemic. All three expect it to.

    H5N1 is now running an 80% death rate in Indonesia.
    The average age of those effected is 18.

    I hope you have a plan to alert your residents that they will need to have 3 months of food in their homes for the first wave of the pandemic because that is the only way to not get sick. Also because the DHS has said they may quarantine us for up to 90 days and the CDC said they will close the schools for 90 days if a pandemic breaks out anywhere in the world with a CFR of 1% or higher.

    I hope you have instructed your residents how to purify their water by either boiling it for 12 minutes or using 15 drops of unscented bleach in a gallon when Westport’s water treatment plant runs out of chemicals due to the disruptions to the Just In Time delivery system.

    I hope you have instructed your residents how to keep warm in the winter without heat if the power goes out since the energy industry is expecting outages due to 30-60% of workers not showing up on the job and due to disruptions in parts supply and gas & oil deliveries.

    I hope you have instructed your residents how to care for a loved one sick with pandemic flu since the hospitals will be overwhelmed quickly.

    I hope you’ve told your residents that the virus most likely to go pandemic, H5N1, is now spreading geographically, infecting humans and killing 60% of the (80% in Indonesia).

    I hope you’ve told your residents that when infected long range migratory birds circling the world mingle with our local geese on our children’s playing fields, they could be shedding virus in their poop… and that our kids could be exposed by touching their shoes, balls or anything else that comes in contact with the ground they play on.

    I hope you’ve told your residents that the average age that H5N1 is killing is 18 years old and its killing 80% of them who catch it.

    There is no vaccine. Westport has not bought any anti-virals even though there is a Federally funded program allowing towns to buy it at a deeply discounted rate. There will be no anti-virals for our residents. There will be no help for your residents from the government. We are on our own as told to us by HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt.

    I hope you are planning on publishing the Westport Pandemic Plan and allow your residents to really see what they will be dealing with during the pandemic. Of course if the plan assumes a death rate of 2.5%, it will quickly become a useless document and a shining example of wasted tax dollars.

  6. The issue is your assertion of the “worthless doccument”.  In public service there has to be a delacate balance of planning, disclosure and not causing either a panic or a situation that causes the public not trust the issue.  Hurricane preparedness is a good example, too many misses with warnings causes people to ignore the big one. Can you say Katrina .

    As far as other threats look at London, Japan and yes NYC you just do not know if it is a bomb, sarin , somin , or a jet.  You just plan for the worst and hope for the best.

  7. Chip,

    at this very moment I am in my studios in Times Square… I am very aware of the terrorist threat. But I am keenly aware that those threats all are local in nature… economic, psychological and emotional waves may extend far beyond the attack zone however.

    Pandemic Flu holds an entirely different threat… one of nearly simultaneous global significance.

    What concerns me most is our resident homemaker who runs out of milk for her kids, goes down to the local Stop & Shop only to find it closed (it is in S&S Pandemic Plans to ration, curtail store hours then close them). What does she do now? A killer virus raging overseas heading our way has dried up the flow of oil and Stop & Shop didn’t get their deliveries on time.

    Vax centers arent open since there is no vaccine, and certainly no anti-virals for her kids.

    Do you have an answer why she wasn’t warned ahead of time that she may not be able to buy that milk for several months? Or that her kids may get sick with this monster because the schools didn’t close early enough?

    Or her police and fire departments not responding to calls for help since they weren’t properly supplied with PPE and anti-virals? 

    Free the Plan.

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