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The legislature finds that:
(1) Pandemic influenza is a global outbreak of disease that occurs when a new virus appears in the human population, causes serious illness, and then spreads easily from person to person.
(2) Historically, pandemic influenza has occurred on average every thirty years. Most recently, the Asian flu in 1957-58 and the Hong Kong flu in 1968-69 killed seventy thousand and thirty-four thousand, respectively, in the United States.
(3) Another influenza pandemic could emerge with little warning, affecting a large number of people. Estimates are that another pandemic influenza would cause more than two hundred thousand deaths in our country, with as many as five thousand in Washington. Our state could also expect ten thousand to twenty-four thousand people needing hospital stays, and as many as a million people requiring outpatient visits. During a severe pandemic these numbers could be much higher. The economic losses could also be substantial.
(4) The current Avian or bird flu that is spreading around the world has the potential to start a pandemic. There is yet no proven vaccine, and antiviral medication supplies are limited and of unknown effectiveness against a human version of the virus, leaving traditional public health measures as the only means to slow the spread of the disease. Given the global nature of a pandemic, as much as possible, the state must be able to respond assuming only limited outside resources and assistance will be available.
(5) An effective response to pandemic influenza in Washington must focus at the local level and will depend on preestablished partnerships and collaborative planning on a range of best case and worst case scenarios. It will require flexibility and real-time decision making, guided by accurate information. It will also depend on a well-informed public that understands the dangers of pandemic influenza and the steps necessary to prevent the spread of the disease.
(6) Avian flu is but one example of an infectious disease that, were an outbreak to occur, could pose a significant statewide health hazard. As such, preparation for pandemic flu will also enhance the capacity of local public health jurisdictions to respond to other emergencies.
It is therefore the intent of the legislature that adequate pandemic flu preparedness and response plans be developed and implemented by local public health jurisdictions statewide in order to limit the number of illnesses and deaths, preserve the continuity of essential government and other community services, and minimize social disruption and economic loss in the event of an influenza pandemic.
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