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Now that public health officials know how real the threat of pandemic flu has become, the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and others plan three days of pandemic flu exercises. They begin today.

The exercises will test the readiness of officials with simulated emergencies around the state. There will also be virtual activities involving every Maryland county.

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"Statewide exercises are important to helping us test the public health system's capability to respond to such an emergency," said Frances Phillips, the state's deputy secretary for public health services, in a statement. "We expect to do well in some areas and learn valuable lessons to help us do better in the future."

State health officials coordinated with local health departments, hospitals, health care providers, schools and private businesses and community organizations for the exercises.
 
The main areas to be tested include: Communications, mass prophylaxis or preventive medicines, emergency operations center management, critical resource logistics and distribution, emergency public information and warning, medical supplies management and distribution.

For more information on the flu, go to flu.gov or the state's flu site.

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