HHS meetings to address avian flu

The state Division of Public Health Services will be holding a series of town hall meetings throughout the state to provide residents with information about avian influenza, also known as the “bird flu.”

John Stephen, commissioner of the Department of Health and Human Services – of which the division is a part – said the meetings are “critical” sessions designed to provide residents with “as much up-to-date information about avian influenza as possible.”

Calling the potential pandemic, “the largest public health threat that we face as a department,” Stephen said the meetings are “an excellent chance both to update communities and hear residents’ feedback about our preparations and get ideas from the public how we can do even more to help prepare.”

The meetings will include an update on avian flu and state preparations from Stephen, Division of Public Health Services Director Mary Ann Cooney and state epidemiologist Dr. José Montero. There also will be an opportunity for the audience to ask questions.

The avian flu town hall meetings currently scheduled are:

o Merrimack Town Hall, 6 p.m., Nov. 7
o Manchester Health Department, 6:30 p.m., Nov. 14
o Plymouth Senior Center, 6 p.m., Dec. 14

Meetings in Salem and Berlin also are being planned.

Stephen said state and local government and the Bureau of Emergency Management also will hold a pandemic influenza drill Nov. 17-19. It will be the nation’s first test of a state’s ability to respond to a large-scale flu outbreak.

Three communities — Manchester, Portsmouth and Colebrook — will hold mass vaccination clinics, in which 5,000 free vaccinations of the annual influenza (not the avian flu) vaccine will be offered.

For more information, call 271-4501. – CINDY KIBBE

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