Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Pandemic Flu Awareness Week

Earlier this year, the Trust For America's Health (TFAJ) issued A Killer Flu? ‘Inevitable' Epidemic Could Kill Millions -- a report that found 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.
This week is Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, a joint effort between the Flu Wiki and the blogosphere to better inform the public about a potential flu pandemic and enlist its help.

As Revere over at Effect Measure says:
The purpose of Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, and the Flu Wiki, is to encourage sharing and generation of our collective knowledge and experience.
Many of the consequences of a pandemic, should it occur, will not be medical but social and economic. By working together and anticipating problems we can manage the worst consequences and get through it better and more quickly. Like hurricanes, when a pandemic occurs can not be accurately predicted. Nonetheless, that which can be done in advance should be done, because eventually something will happen. Planning can only help, even if at the local level it can't prevent.
One of our major concerns here at Confined Space, of course, is the health and safety of health care workers duing a flu pandemic. As you may remember, nurses were some of the primary victims of the SARS epidemic of 2003. Luckily, SARS never hit the United States hard, but several health care workers died in Canada and hospitals were accused of having inadequate equipment, training and infection control standards.

I encourage you to check out the The Flu Wiki which was set up last June in an effort to pool and share our collective knowledge in order to advance preparation for and the ability to cope with and avian flu pandemic, should it occur. (A "wiki," you may recall, is a form of collaborative software that allows anyone to edit any page on the site using a standard web browser like Explorer, Firefox or Safari.)

One section of special interest concerns Health Care Worker Safety During a Pandemic. This section includes a number of methods health care workers may use to protect themselves during an influenza pandemic as well as publications addressing health care worker safety.

And just to give you an idea of what a avian flu pandemic in your hometown might look like, check out CanadaSue's fictional (but perhaps all-too-real) scenario.

In fact, check out the entire site. For those of you who are health care workers, check out the advice and referenced publications. Make sure your institution is making preparations. Get the conversation going in your community and among your readers. And, if you have any knowledge, experience or opinions to add to the debate, participate in "growing" the Flu Wiki.

And while we're on the topic of the avian flu pandemic, you may have noticed that President Bush today raised the possibility of using the military to enforce a quarantine of entire areas of the United States should the avian flu strike.

Revere doesn't think that makes a whole lot of sense:
Outside of the fact this kind of thinking is pretty scary stuff, most public health experts know it won't work. Movement is too free and easily accomplished and the American people cannot be forced to do something they think will hurt them or their families. They'll find a way around it with ease. Remember that a quarantine would have to be essentially complete and airtight, because this is a self-reproducing organism. Only one or a few people getting through or for that matter entering the US from elsewhere where the disease is active would negate such a Draconian measure. Bush's public health experts certainly have told him this, so one can assume its object is not to stop disease spread but to control the population.

Indeed, given our total lack of preparation and the lack of leadership of the Administration, the biggest effect of a pandemic might be a breakdown in social order. So Bush is preparing the ground ahead of time.