Faithful readers of Effect Measure are fully aware that something wicked this way comes -- in this case, the Avian Flu. Revere, in the true spirit of his namesake, has been ringing the alarm for months, warning us that the U.S. is woefully unprepared to deal with a major flu pandemic.
Earlier this week, the Trust For America's Health (TFAJ) issued A Killer Flu? ‘Inevitable' Epidemic Could Kill Millions -- a report that finds that
over half a million Americans could die and over 2.3 million could be hospitalized if a moderately severe strain of a pandemic flu virus hits the U.S. Additionally, based on the model estimates, 66.9 million Americans are at risk of contracting the disease.The report found that the US has only stockpiled enough antiviral pharmaceuticals "to cover 5.3 million Americans, leaving over 60 million who could be infected and would not be able to receive medication before an effective vaccine to combat the flu strain is identified and produced."
The U.S. has not assessed or planned for the disruption a flu pandemic could cause both to the economy and society as a whole. This includes daily life considerations, such as potential school and workplace closures, potential travel and mass transit restrictions, and the potential need to close stores resulting in complications in the delivery of food and basic supplies to people.Revere has identified another serious problem serious problem:
Because such an event would be geographically widespread it will leave each local area to cope with and solve problems on their own. In such a circumstance, any preparation, however limited, can save lives and suffering. And to make these local preparations, knowledge is not only empowering, but essential. Rather than leave these preparations solely to governmental authorities and rather than restrict knowledge to designated "experts," both of whom have failed to prepare adequately, it is necessary to begin to undertake many needed tasks ourselves.Despite their reputation, however, some bloggers actually light a candle instead of spending all of their time just cursing the darkness. So, Just a Bump in the Beltway, The Next Hurrah and Effect Measure blogs have launched a new experiment in collaborative problem solving in public health, The Flu Wiki.
What is a Wiki and how is it going to address our lack of preparedness?
A Wiki is a form of collaborative software that allows anyone to edit (change) any page on the site using a standard web browser like Explorer, Firefox or Safari.The purpose of the Flu Wiki is to help local communities prepare for and perhaps cope with a possible influenza pandemic. This is a task previously ceded to local, state and national governmental public health agencies. Communications technology has now become sufficiently available to allow a new form of collaborative problem-solving that harvests the rich fund of knowledge and experience that exists among those connected via the internet, allowing more talent to participate.So far, there is no chapter for health care workers. In fact the only document that touches on preparation of health care workers is last year's Centers for Disease Control draft Pandemic Influenza Response and Preparedness Plan. Annex 2: Health Care System Guidance addresses health care worker concerns. Check it out.
No one, in any health department or government agency, knows all the things needed to cope with an influenza pandemic. But it is likely someone knows something about some aspect of each of them and if we can pool and share our knowledge we can advance preparation for and the ability to cope with events. This is not meant to be a substitute for planning, preparation and implementation by civil authorities, but a parallel effort that complements, supports and extends those efforts.
I'm not going to write it myself on health care workers myself (although I'd gladly assist), but I'm sure there are more than a few of you out there who know about the actions this country must take to prepare its health care workers to face a flu pandemic, and the resources that health care workers will need to access.
By the way, those of you interested in knowing a bit more about Wiki's should check out the God of all wiki's,the huge free encyclopedia, Wikipedia. It even has a chapter on OSHA.