State on guard to identify sick birds with avian flu

Filed under: Health Care |

A comprehensive system has been established in Colorado for reporting sick, dying or dead birds that might be carriers of avian flu or West Nile virus.

Although no avian flu has been identified in any birds in the United States or in Colorado, the system is a precautionary measure in case infected birds do reach this continent through world migratory paths.

People who find dead birds, or would like to report sick or dying birds in their flocks, should call the Colorado Health Emergency Line for the Public at (877) 462-2911.

Staff is available from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays and from 9:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends.

“We do not intend to frighten residents of this state,” said Dr. Keith Roehr, the acting state veterinarian at the Colorado Department of Agriculture. “But, we do want to work with them to receive and appropriately relay and coordinate any information they have about unhealthy or dead birds and to answer their questions and concerns. Highly pathogenic avian influenza has not been identified in any bird found in the United States. Also, we are moving into West Nile virus season, and it is important that we be able to track the location and the numbers of dead birds found to have that disease.”

The hotline is operated by the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Control Center and is under contract to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s Emergency Preparedness and Response Program to take calls from the public and to answer questions during health emergencies.

The hotline fielded calls during 2003 when Colorado was particularly hard hit by West Nile virus and human flu.

Participants in the program, which has developed the bird surveillance plan, are representatives of the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the Colorado Division of Wildlife and the Department of Public Health and Environment.

Roehr said that duties for tracking bird health and disease issues have been divided according to the expertise of the agency involved in the program.

The Department of Agriculture is the response agency for all owned and domestic bird health issues in the state. The Department of Agriculture and the Colorado State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory works with flock owners to collect samples for testing and to educate and engage commercial and non-commercial flock owners about issues relating to avian disease and bio-security practices for the protection of all birds and people who live and work with birds.

The Department of Public Health and Environment’s Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division, working in cooperation with local health departments and county public health nursing services across Colorado, will handle issues relating to birds suspected of being carriers of West Nile virus.

Rocky Mountain Health Plans to expand network

Agreements between Rocky Mountain Health Plans, Colorado Springs Health Partners and both Colorado Springs hospitals offer RMHP members in the Pikes Peak region more choices for health care coverage, as well as access to an expanded network of health care providers.

RMHP members have access to the area’s largest physician-owned specialty group, with more than 90 physicians covering 18 specialties in 11 locations, including Colorado Springs, Monument and Woodland Park. The network expansion is supported by Memorial Health Centers, which serves as RMHP’s exclusive HMO hospital provider in Colorado Springs.

AMR donation to benefit children’s organization

American Medical Response will donate an ambulatory transfer vehicle to the Community Partnership for Child Development, a nonprofit agency that provides early childhood development services for children and families.

The donated vehicle is equipped with a wheelchair lift, which will allow employees to transport furniture and other items between its classroom locations in El Paso County and its central office.

AMR donated more than $100,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to local nonprofit and community service organizations in 2005. Since 1996, AMR has donated 18 ambulances to organizations in the community, including the American Red Cross, Colorado College, and several local fire departments.

Osteopathic Foundation holds boomer event

The Colorado Springs Osteopathic Foundation will hold a public education event, “Baby Boomers – Helping Yourself, Helping Your Parents, Helping Your Children” from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. May 4 at The Broadmoor.

The event will be the first in a series addressing issues that baby boomers are facing.

Patti Auxier, care planner with the Pikes Peak Area Agency on Aging will present information about pre-care giving planning, and discuss topics such as how to communicate with elderly parents about their health care and the fundamentals of taking care of an elderly parent. Mark Zener of Morgan Stanley Trust will discuss the realities of economics and healthcare with a focus on paying for parents’ care without risking your financial future.

The event is free, but there is a $10 charge for valet parking, payable in advance with your reservation.

Call 634-9057 for more information.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.