CAPITOL HILL Saipan — The Department of Interior and Office of Insular Affairs and the U.S. Health and Human Services and the Center for Disease Control are gearing up for a meeting in Saipan to discuss preparations for a possible avian flu pandemic.

The avian flu preparedness meeting in Saipan is scheduled to take place on Jan. 11 and 12 2006.

R. Jeffrey Schorr Saipan-based field representative of the Office of Insular Affairs said the meeting is scheduled close to the inauguration festivities for incoming gubernatorial team of Benigno R. Fitial and Lt. Gov.-elect Timothy P. Villagomez in order that officials who are on Saipan for the inauguration can attend.

Schorr wrote to the administration on Nov. 22 to explain the purpose of the meeting. He wrote “The meeting would be jointly funded by OIA and HHS and would address reviewing preparedness plans and identifying gaps.”

Schorr told the Journal “The meeting is being funded by our office. The program is being put together by CDC and HSS; they are doing it for all 50 states. We’re making arrangements for officials from those offices to come out and make the presentation in Saipan to representatives from the insular areas.”

Schorr said he anticipates 35 people attending the meeting. David B. Cohen deputy assistant secretary for the office of insular affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior is expected to attend.

Madeleine Z. Bordallo Guam’s delegate to congress hosted a conference call on Dec. 7 with federal officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and several local leaders from Guam to discuss the island’s preparedness for avian flu.

Bordallo said “Hosting today’s teleconference facilitated the information-sharing processes that will enable the Government of Guam to best prepare for an outbreak of avian flu. CDC officials informed me in today’s discussion that our island has no current risk of H5N1 on the island. Although this news will serve as a source of relief for many it is critical to continue preparations for an international pandemic.”

The governor’s office the lieutenant governor the speaker public health officials the territorial epidemiologist CDC officials the Office of Terrorism Preparedness and Emergency Response and other Guam officials attended the teleconference.

On Nov. 18 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency reported a duck was infected by a bird flu virus but stressed the strain of bird flu infecting the duck came from a farm in Chilliwack and is not the virulent outbreak in Asia. Despite not having the specific Asian avian flu strain Canada started killing about 56 000 birds on the farm with carbon dioxide gas as a precaution. On Nov. 21 the U.S. government banned poultry from mainland British Columbia because of the incident. Canadian officials emphasize the H5 virus found at the farm is not the deadly H5N1 strain that has killed 60 people in Southeast Asia. MBJ