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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

Few flock to Lucas County bird flu forum

BY LUKE SHOCKMAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Some public officials have paid little attention to bird flu, as evidenced by low attendance at a forum yesterday for Lucas County elected officials.

But not Sheilah McAdams.

Ms. McAdams, Maumee's law director, is working on an amendment to her city's charter that would outline "continuity of government" steps that could be taken if bird flu sickens or kills city leaders.

The last time the city took such an unusual step? During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.

This time, it's not nuclear Armageddon but the possibility that bird flu could mutate into a deadly strain readily spread from person to person that has convinced Ms. McAdams it's smart to amend the city charter.

For example, she said, during a flu pandemic it might be better to hold public meetings by video teleconference instead of face to face, something current law prohibits.

It's better to prepare now when there's no crisis, Ms. McAdams told fellow officials during a meeting sponsored yesterday by the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

The meeting was the first in a series sponsored by the department as it tries to spread the message that preparation and planning are essential. Meetings with schools, faith leaders, and businesses are planned.

But Dr. David Grossman, commissioner of the health department, was disappointed by the forum's low attendance.

"I was hoping for more," he said. "Those who weren't here should pick up the pace. They need to have an answer [for the public] to the question 'What will we do?'‚óŹ"

Nearly 45 elected leaders or their representatives were invited to the meeting. Eight people showed up. Attending yesterday's meeting as elected officials or their representatives were Ms. McAdams; Mike Coyle, Maumee city councilman; Robert Reinbolt, chief of staff for Toledo Mayor Carty Finkbeiner; Craig Stough, mayor of Sylvania; Karen Rogalski of Lucas County Commissioner Maggie Thurber's office; David Mann of Lucas County Commissioner Pete Gerken's office; Harold Grim, Monclova Township administrator, and Lance Martin, chairman of the Providence Township trustees.

Eric Zgodzinski, a supervisor at the health department, told the elected officials and their representatives it's wise to draw up plans and prepare for a flu pandemic. "You need to know what's going on, because you'll be the ones getting the phone calls," he said.

Maumee officials have formed a pandemic flu ad hoc committee. Mr. Stough said Sylvania soon may follow suit.

Mr. Reinbolt said Toledo has no plans for a pandemic flu task force or committee, but said all departments have contingency plans in place to deal with emergencies like bird flu.

Dr. Grossman praised those attending, especially leaders who have begun drawing up preparation plans like the one Ms. McAdams is suggesting.

"We're getting to the point where not only do you have to think about [bird flu], but you'd better have an answer to [the public's] questions," he said. "We need to start getting specific in our planning."

Mr. Stough said he hopes more elected officials step up to the plate.

"This is something that can affect every one of their constituents, and they need to get involved," he said.

Contact Luke Shockman at:

lshockman@theblade.com

or 419-724-6084.



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