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SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Mar 19) – Different government agencies in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands will come up with their own emergency plans for pandemic influenza.

This was the common recommendation of the participants in last week’s rapid response for avian and pandemic influenza workshop held at Pacific Islands Club from March 14 to 16.

Forty-five participants from the Department of Public Health, the Emergency Management Office and the Joint Task Force-Homeland Defense attended the workshop moderated by Col. Michael Brumage who is with the task force.

The curriculum for the workshop was created by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The workshop aimed to assess capabilities and limitations of the CNMI pandemic flu plan and identify ways to strengthen it by bringing together various agencies to discuss their roles in times of pandemic flu.

On the last day of the workshop, each group made a presentation on how to deal with pandemic flu.

All the groups recommended inter-agency collaboration and the private sector’s involvement.

Department of Public Health public information officer Roxanne Diaz said there was a need for a CNMI-wide pandemic flu emergency operation plan.

Public Health’s bio-terrorism coordinator Pete Untalan said their recommendations will be used to further refine and update the department’s pandemic flu plan.

Participants said concerned government agencies can come up with their own operation plans to address pandemic flu.

"We’re very impressed with the Public Health pandemic flu plan," Brumage said. "It is in a good state of development and I think we have raised the awareness that (pandemic flu) is a problem that any agency can handle."

This is the first time in the CNMI that the Homeland Defense Task Force has conducted this kind of workshop, Brumage said.

He said they have held similar workshops in Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and Marshall Islands.

Nobody knows for sure when a pandemic flu will occur, he added.

"But we know for sure that a pandemic will occur," he said.

Other officials who attended the workshop were Public Health Secretary Joseph Kevin Villagomez, Department of Lands and Natural Resources Secretary Ignacio Dela Cruz, Public Health medical director Richard Brostrom, CNMI Homeland Security director Patrick P. Tenorio, Navy Capt. Gail Hathaway, Navy Cmdr. Fred Landro and Army Capt. McKinley Rainey.

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