Swine flu? Atlanta Rotary has experts in public health

It was a “Rotary moment,” fundraiser Ann Curry observed after Monday’s weekly meeting.

On Monday morning, Rotary President Alec Fraser asked John Fox, president and CEO of Emory Healthcare, to give members an update on a possible pandemic of swine flu.

Fox described Mexico as being “ground zero” for the flu epidemic, but he hesitated calling it a pandemic. He also let Rotarians know that there have been no reported cases in Georgia so far.

Rotarian Gen. Russel Honoré, best known as the commander of the Joint Task Force Katrina, told people to read the the U.S. government’s plan for a pandemic at www.pandemicflu.gov.

“Most people in government haven’t read it,” Honoré said, before warning folks who have invested in the airline industry. “If we have a death, this thing will kill the airline industry,” he said.

Then Salvador de Lara Rangel, Mexico’s consul general in Atlanta, asked to address the luncheon crowd.

“What’s happening in Mexico at the moment is that we don’t have enough vaccines,” he said. “So what we are doing is using vaccines for physicians and healthcare.”

The Mexican consul general then told Rotarians that even though more than 100 people in Mexico had died, the situation is “still under control.”

The exchange between these folks at Atlanta Rotary show the depth of leadership that exists at the downtown club, which is why Curry called it a “Rotary moment.”

At least three other Rotarians are directly involved in public health.

There’s Dr. Louis Sullivan, former secretary of Health and Human Services; there’s Dr. Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE and a former executive at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and there’s also Dr. David Satcher, former U.S. Surgeon General and a former director of CDC.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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