Public forum on influenza pandemic

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - State health officials are inviting the public to voice their opinions on controversial ethical issues the state would face in an influenza pandemic.

According to a government website, they say the danger for such an outbreak comes when a new flu virus evolves that people have little or no immunity to and there is no vaccination available.

World health officials say they are concerned mainly with the mutating avian flu, or "bird flu", virus coming out of Southeast Asia.

They say to prepare, each state is drafting its own emergency plan of action. For South Carolina, that includes and ethical outline of how tough, controversial decisions would be handled in such a crisis.

Phil Schneider who is co-chairing the Ethics Taskforce says an influenza pandemic would require unconventional approaches to medical treatment.

"The medicine will change in a pandemic," he said. "There will not be enough resources to treat everyone that's sick. That means you have to treat the people that have the best chance to survive, not necessarily the people who are sickest."

He says the main goals would be to minimize the number of people infected with the virus as well as the number of deaths in the people who are infected.

Schneider says transparency and fairness are they key ethical principles that are driving the taskforce's plan.

"We want people in the communities to understand the ethical principals which will guide these decisions," Schneider said. "These decisions, if we have to make them, will affect life and death of the people in this community."

The forum is the first of four that will take place across the state. Other forums will take place in Charleston, Columbia, and Greenville.

The forum will take place Monday night from 7pm to 9 pm at the Horry-Georgetown Technical College Conference Center on the Myrtle Beach Air Base campus.

Posted by Jeremy Turnage