An influenza pandemic is a real and significant potential threat facing the United States and the world. Pandemics occur when a novel virus emerges that can easily be transmitted among humans who have little immunity. In 2005, the Homeland Security Council (HSC) issued a National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza and, in 2006, an Implementation Plan. Congress and others are concerned about the federal government’s preparedness to lead a response to an influenza pandemic. This report assesses how clearly federal leadership roles and responsibilities are defined and the extent to which the Strategy and Plan address six characteristics of an effective national strategy. To do this, GAO analyzed key emergency and pandemic-specific plans, interviewed agency officials, and compared the Strategy and Plan with the six characteristics GAO identified.
Source: Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy, and the Pew Center on the States, 2007
From the press release:
Public health planners have a new tool to help them prepare for an influenza pandemic. Pew and the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy are announcing the launch of www.PandemicPractices.org, a new online resource that highlights promising ways communities are preparing for a flu pandemic.
PandemicPractices.org brings together more than 130 peer-reviewed practices from four countries, 22 states and 33 counties. Compiled as a tool to save communities and states time and resources, the database enables public health professionals to learn from one another and to build on their own pandemic plans. Using PandemicPractices.org, they can examine and download pandemic flu planning materials and use or adapt them to fit local needs.
An influenza pandemic as severe as the 1918 pandemic could cause nearly a million Utahns to become ill and result in over 350,000 outpatient doctor visits, 80,000 hospitalizations, and 16,000 deaths over the course of a year. Critical assumptions used in developing this plan included: 1) outbreaks would probably occur widely across the state and nation, limiting the ability to share resources among jurisdictions; 2) vaccine would not be available until several months had elapsed; 3) shortages of critical medicines (including antiviral medications) and other supplies would occur; 4) capacity to provide medical care would be severely stressed or exceeded; and 5) absenteeism rates and fear would stress the abilities to maintain business continuity and to provide for essential community services including police, fire, water, food, transportation and sanitation.
The goals of this plan are, first, to minimize serious illness and death, and second, to limit societal disruption and economic losses. The plan is intended to coordinate with global and national plans developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). It outlines responsibilities and activities in six areas (Planning and Coordination; Public and Risk Communications; Surveillance, Investigation and Containment; Vaccine Management and Administration, Antiviral Medication Stockpiling and Use; Laboratory Testing, and Health Care and Emergency Response). It uses the three pandemic planning phases outlined by WHO (Inter-Pandemic, Pandemic Alert, and Pandemic Periods), the U.S. Federal Stages, and introduces Utah Pandemic Response Levels.
This plan outlines activities and responsibilities for government public health agencies and builds upon preparedness assets developed at federal, state, and local levels of government and in the private sector. The Plan incorporates work by several advisory bodies, including a Pandemic Influenza Planning Committee (2005-2006), the Pandemic Influenza Workgroup (2006-ongoing), and the Governor’s Pandemic Influenza Taskforce, which met in 2006-2007 and developed recommendations that are included in and will set the stage for the next phase of this planning process.
Massive planning exercise will assess impact on staffing, telecommunications
What may be the largest pandemic planning exercise ever conducted in the U.S. is set to begin next month. The dry run will force financial services firms to operate with shrinking numbers of employees — on paper, at least.
More than 1,800 organizations have signed up to participate in the three-week simulation, which is being sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.
From press release:
Community Measures Prevent Deaths During Pandemic, New Study Finds –
School closures and other community strategies designed to reduce the possibility of spreading disease between people during an epidemic can save lives, particularly when the measures are used in combination and implemented soon after an outbreak begins in a community, according to a new study based on public records from the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic.
The findings (subscription required), which are published in the Aug. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, provide vital clues to help public officials planning for the next influenza pandemic and highlight the importance of community strategies. These strategies are particularly important because the intervention most likely to provide the best protection against pandemic influenza — a vaccine — is unlikely to be available at the outset of a pandemic. Community strategies that delay or reduce the impact of a pandemic (also called non-pharmaceutical interventions) may help reduce the spread of disease until a vaccine that is well-matched to the virus is available.
Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of Michigan Medical School′s Center for the History of Medicine completed an exhaustive review of public records such as health department reports, U.S. Census mortality data and newspaper archives.
Early Warning Infectious Disease Program (EWIDS)
Pandemic Planning Update IV
Department of Health and Human Services’ Pandemic Flu Website
Source: Shawn Rhea, Modern Healthcare, Vol. 37 no. 32, August 13, 2007
As hospitals plan for emergencies such as a flu pandemic, one challenge is how they’ll keep their supply shelves stocked.
From the summary:
Since the release of the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Implementation Plan one year ago, much has been accomplished to realize the U.S. Government’s pandemic preparedness and response goals of: (1) stopping, slowing, or otherwise limiting the spread of a pandemic to the United States; (2) limiting the domestic spread of a pandemic and mitigating disease, suffering, and death; and (3) sustaining infrastructure and mitigating impact to the economy and the functioning of society.
Although the visibility of avian influenza and pandemic preparedness has waned in the media, the threat of avian influenza and the potential for an influenza pandemic has not. A pandemic occurs when a novel strain of influenza virus emerges that has the ability to infect humans and to cause severe disease, and where efficient and sustained transmission between humans occurs. Though we cannot be certain that highly pathogenic avian influenza A H5N1 (H5N1) will spark a pandemic, we can be sure that a pandemic will occur at some point in the future. It is everyone’s responsibility to remain vigilant. We cannot become complacent and must continue to take the threat of a pandemic very seriously.
From the press release:
Today a coalition of 18 health organizations led by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Public Health Association (APHA) released a consensus report with 53 strategic recommendations for legislators, government officials and organizational leaders to more effectively prepare for and respond to catastrophic emergencies. The recommendations, especially nine identified as “critical,” serve as a national call to action from medicine, dentistry, nursing, hospitals, emergency medical services (EMS), and public health. The recommendations seek to strengthen health system preparedness and response through increased funding, greater integration, continued education and training and ensured legal protections for responders.
Nine critical recommendations from the consensus report make up a call to action in four categories:
Public health systems must be appropriately funded to adequately respond to day-to-day emergencies and catastrophic mass casualty events;
Public health and disaster response systems must be fully integrated and interoperable at all government levels;
Health care and public health professionals should maintain an appropriate level of education and training; and
Health care and public health responders must be provided and assured adequate legal protections in a disaster.
+ Action Brief
+ Signed Pledge of Commitment
On June 13, Michael O. Leavitt, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, convened a leadership forum on pandemic preparedness, which brought together highly influential leaders from the business, faith, civic and health care sectors to discuss how best to help Americans become more prepared for a possible influenza pandemic. The Department is hosting this five-week blog to expand the conversation as part of an ongoing effort by the Department to help Americans become more prepared. HHS does not edit blog postings and cannot ensure that all included links are functioning. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Preparing for emergencies is nothing new for Patricia Bean, Hillsborough County, Fla., administrator. After all, hurricanes are a way of life in the Southeast, and readiness for the next storm is at the top of every official’s list of essential tasks. But, anticipating an influenza pandemic is different. “We’re used to dealing with a situation that we see coming and then passes,” she says about hurricanes. “But this situation is very different. We may have 30 to 40 percent of our staff out of work. How can we cover that?”