Thursday, March 01, 2007
Working together to plan for an influenza pandemic
Today's blog post is a guest entry by Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director of the U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A global pandemic caused by influenza is not a matter of if, but when, such a pandemic will occur. Vaccination will be the best way to protect people, but will not be an option until several months after a pandemic virus appears.
Until then, other steps will need to be taken to protect people, slow down spread, and help keep our society functioning. These include personal measures (like keeping your hands clean, staying home when you're sick, and covering your nose and mouth if you sneeze or cough) to avoid getting and spreading the virus, developing household emergency plans and supply kits, accessing medical treatments for infection and sometimes prevention, and community measures to protect the public.
Of these, community measures have received recent attention because new interim recommendations have been developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in collaboration with many other federal agencies, partners, technical experts and other stakeholders. The recommended steps can be found online within the Interim Pre-Pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States.
One new idea that we introduced in this planning advice is that since not all pandemics are equally severe, a severity index that categorizes pandemics, much like we categorize hurricanes, might be useful. For instance, a "low speed" pandemic that does not move very fast from person to person or does not have a very high fatality rate would likely be a fairly mild pandemic - a "Category 1."
On the other hand, we know in 1918, we had a pandemic that not only moved with extraordinary speed from person to person and around the world, but also had an unusually high mortality rate. We would categorize that as "Category 5" and implement many interventions in the community to help slow down spread and hopefully save lives. These control measures could include keeping children out of school and away from each other, canceling social events, and encouraging only essential personnel to come to work.
The interim guidance is based on lessons learned from previous pandemics. It's simply a starting point and as communities exercise for a pandemic and we learn more, we’ll be updating this planning tool and sharing those updates with you. Please provide us your input about the guidance by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Effective planning requires a network of all of us -- in homes, schools, churches, businesses, governments and health organizations -- working together.
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