Thus far this week, I’ve discussed the history of pandemic influenza in general, and avian flu in particular. I’ve discussed some issues that must be addressed to prepare us for a pandemic, and the groundbreaking resurrection of the Spanish influenza virus. Today I want to end the series with a look at how prepared we currently are as a nation, and highlight some personal preparedness steps you can take.
If you recall from Tuesday, the first outbreak of H5N1 was back in 1997. The anthrax attacks were in 2001. Surely by now we’re prepared for some kind of serious, large-scale, biological event, right? Well…
The Feds: “um, er, the dog ate my homework?”
The U.S. is still working on finalizing its Pandemic Influenza plan, which it keeps promising will be done “soon.” But scientists are a bit skeptical…
“We need more than just a plan; we need the resources to actually activate it,” said Jeffrey Levi, a pandemic specialist at the Trust. “The real test of the plan will be whether it comes with dollars attached.”
The current draft of the administration’s plan fills several hundred pages. It describes the role of the federal government in coordinating the response to a flu pandemic and outlines steps to be taken at all levels of government before and during an outbreak.
In addition to production and stockpiling of vaccines and antivirals, the plan seeks to conduct research, prepare public education campaigns and develop ways for hospitals to handle large numbers of patients.