Immediate Release

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Wednesday, November 2, 2020

Brian Adey

Griffo: Oneida County Develops Preparedness Steps To Prepare for Potential of Avian Flu

     Oneida County Executive Joseph A. Griffo today announced that Oneida County is developing a multi-step preparedness approach to address the potential of an avian flu pandemic.

     “I was invited to participate in a call yesterday with senior White House and top Health and Human Services officials coordinating America’s effort to be prepared for avian flu. To ensure that Oneida County remains ready to respond and its people are protected without being panicked, I will be working with our Oneida County Health Department, local governments, health care providers and other local partners to develop a preparedness plan,” Griffo said.

     “A few years ago, the concept of disease pandemics was the stuff of science fiction. Now, we have diseases that are spreading around the world as fast, if not faster, than our researchers can respond with vaccines,” Griffo said. “Although we do not have a case of avian flu, and we have no reason to believe we are any more vulnerable than anyone else, we need to be prepared so that over time we can adapt to the realities of living in a time when new diseases pose new threats.”

     “All of our hospitals, physicians, and citizens need to work as a team,” Griffo said. “We need to start by making sure people separate the myths from the facts about avian flu, and also we need to outline plans for what we might need to do if a case is reported here in Oneida County, or even in a nearby county.”

     For example, Griffo noted that often-expressed concern about eating chicken does not reflect the reality that thoroughly cooking chicken would remove any possibility of catching the disease.

     “The Oneida County Health Department is out in the community every day helping people understand complex health issues in simple, easy-to-understand terms. At this stage, this is a major public health communication and preparedness effort, and our Health Department is extremely qualified to take the lead in continuing our commitment to protect the public health here in Oneida County.”

     Griffo noted that one facet of communication will be to reach out to the region’s refugee community. “Getting the word out on avian flu means that we need the support of the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees and the Multicultural Association of Medical Interpreters so that all of our communications materials are accurately translated into the languages spoken by the people of our region,” he said.

     Health Director Eric Faisst noted that the County’s response effort builds upon previous collaborations. “The Health Department has a solid history of collaboration so that as we look at public health, we look at it from the medical, law enforcement, governmental, community, social and economic perspectives,” he said. “We continually develop and update emergency plans. Although as new diseases occur, and we try to be prepared for their unique circumstances, the partnerships that are vital in our response already exist – which helps us respond in a more effective way to protect the people of Oneida County.”

     “One of the most important lessons of the concerns for avian flu is that a public health situation can emerge at any moment. Our Oneida County Health Department’s web page on the county Government Web site (, will have up-to-date news and links to the state and federal agencies that are helping coordinate America’s preparedness,” Griffo said.

Faisst said actions already taken include:

  • The development of fact sheets that can be distributed to the medical community and general public.
  • Drafts of memoranda of agreement that can be used in event of an emergency if either mass vaccinations or quarantine sites are needed.
  • A revised version of the Oneida County Pandemic Influenza and Highly Infectious Respiratory Disease Plan is being sent to key stakeholders for review and comment.
  • A Flu Vaccination Emergency Response drill will be held on November 4.  Lessons learned from drill will be added to the county’s plan.
  • A Flu Committee has been activated and will meet weekly. The committee is comprised of Faisst, Patrice Bogan, Director of Clinical Services, Ken Shilkret, Epidemiologist, Ken Fanelli, Public Education Coordinator, Renee Burgess, Clinic Secretary, Tom Engle, Supervising Principal Accountant, and Medical Advisor Dr. Susan Blatt 

     Griffo noted that there will likely be fiscal implications to the county’s preparedness plans. “We are talking about an intense communications effort and significant expenses to develop plans,” he said. “I am directing the Budget Office to set up new accounts to be used in the event that there is a local cost involved to meet this vital need, and to review the budget to identify funds we can redirect to address preparedness for avian flu. We will also be aggressively seeking state and federal grant monies that will become available to support our preparedness and outreach efforts.”