Duluth's flu forum shows importance of preparedness
Timing doesn't get more impeccable than this. The Minnesota Department of Health began planning a community forum in Duluth a month ago to critique a draft of ethical guidelines for distributing limited medical resources during an influenza pandemic.
Timing doesn't get more impeccable than this.
The Minnesota Department of Health began planning a community forum in Duluth a month ago to critique a draft of ethical guidelines for distributing limited medical resources during an influenza pandemic. On Saturday, about 100 residents and health officials attended the forum at the College of St. Scholastica as the swine flu, near pandemic levels, showed the need for preparedness.
Sanne Magnan, the Minnesota Commissioner of Health, was dealing with eight probable Minnesota cases of the swine flu, or H1N1, Friday night in St. Paul, but she traveled to Duluth early Saturday to take part in the forum.
"What's going on now with H1N1 makes the emphasis on what we are doing more important," said Buddy Ferguson, a risk communication specialist with the Minnesota Department of Health.
Health officials answered questions about the influenza during their lunch break. On the World Health Organization six-stage ranking, swine flu is at phase five, meaning a pandemic is imminent.
Since 2007, about 100 Minnesota health experts began working on the Minnesota Pandemic Ethics Project, which released preliminary guidelines in January. The overall focus of the guidelines was how to prevent as many deaths in a pandemic as possible, while protecting infrastructure and maintaining fairness.
One of the most discussed ethical issues for officials during the process and on Saturday was how to ration medicine based on age. With the hypothetical of equal risk, should kids receive treatment before adults or vice versa?
"We wanted to air out perspectives without hammering out consensus," said Ellie Garrett of the Minnesota Center for Health Care Ethics. "There were a wide range of opinions about age."
Some of the suggestions included an emphasis on protecting children or enacting a lottery or other random measure. Other views included aiding adults first because they would be needed to care for the children and protecting elders who add experience and wisdom to society, Garrett said.
The event was part of a community outreach grant the Minnesota Department of Health received from the Centers for Disease Control. The Minnesota Department of Health previously had a similar forum in Owatonna, Minn.