Is bird flu pandemic possible here?

Even to the point of refraining from hugging and kissing friends and loved ones, a Kaua’i tradition, people need to think about ways of preventing the spread of communicable diseases on the island, one specialist said.

“We’re going to have to learn how to let people know, how to let others know, ‘hey, I’ve got something,’ and refrain from hugging, shaking hands,” said A.J. “Gus” Lactaoen of Princeville.

“We’re a really loving, hugging, hands-on kind of people,” and that can be a problem when trying to contain the spread of a contagious disease, said Lactaoen, author of “911 — The Red Book of Emergencies.”

He’ll host a free panel discussion on the threat of pandemic bird flu on Kaua’i Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Kaua’i Community College Performing Arts Center.

Among the panelists are Dr. Tyler Zerwekh, bioterrorism specialist with the state Department of Health; Dr. Joanne R. Seki Woltmon, a veterinarian with Kauai Veterinary Clinic; and Dr. Daniel Sciaroni, a family practitioner with Kuhio Medical Center.

Psychologist Judith White will speak on avoiding mass panic in the event of a pandemic (a disease, like bird flu, which can be spread over a wide geographic area).

Panelists will discuss local, state, national and international preparedness, what people can do to protect their families, and much more, while answering questions from members of the audience, Lactaoen explained.

In Europe and Asia, leaders of governments are getting very nervous about the quick spread of bird flu, or avian flu, in those countries, he added.

“We should be following it more closely,” said Lactaoen, who added that tips will be shared tomorrow on ways to prevent contracting and spreading the regular winter flu that is making its way across Kaua’i. Tips on avoidance of getting the regular flu might also help people avoid getting the potentially fatal bird flu, he suggested. For more information, call 651-4180, or visit www.911seminars.com.

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