Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Norhern Command To Take Over In Flu Pandemic

In the fall, the war was always there, but we did not go to it any more. - Ernest Hemingway, "In Another Country"

U.S. Northern Command To Take Over In Predicted Flu Pandemic
By Jim Parks

The nation will come under martial when the predicted onslaught of the H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic hits the U.S. in the fall.

Military planners say swine flu could wipe out as many as two million American lives - in spite of a joint effort with FEMA to administer an estimated 160 million doses of vaccine.

Some naysayers predict an establishment of martial law; other emergency planners feel it is too much too soon.

Though the mainstream media has made little mention of the military effort to take control in all regions of the nation, nevertheless military planners are awaiting the final approval from Secretary of Defense Robert Gatesa of a plan first promulgated in 2006.

"I think the bureaucracy is using the pandemic to take too much authority," said Bosque County Emergency Operations Coordinator Dewey Ratliff.

Though the U.S. military would stand by to serve the state and local governments, providing virus testing services and air transport, there is still the matter of preparation and distribution of the 160 million doses of vaccine, he said.

When the Federal Emergency Management Administration plans for a major disaster such as a hurricane or an invasion, state governments must follow suit. But if the disaster does not occur, there is no means of reimbursement for state and local governments to pursue, and thus no recovery of the hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars spent in advance to curb the predicted onslaught.

It's a delicate balance. Too much too soon results in waste; not enough too late costs lives.

According to a Department of Defense plan promulgated in 2006, an onslaught of the disease would last 6 to 12 weeks "and multiple pandemic waves will follow." The prediction is that 20 to 35 percent of the population will become ill, three percent will be hospitalized and there will be a national fatality rate of one percent.

The government's mission statement in the plan is to maintain control of the national defense and the industrial capacity of the U.S.

No pandemic specific strain of vaccine will be available for a minimum of six to nine months after clinical confirmation of sustained human-to-human pandemic influenza transmission.

"State, tribal and local jurisdictions will be overwhelmed and unable to provide or ensure the provision of essential commodities and services," the plan says.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security sound an even more ominous note in the briefing paper.

"If efforts to contain human-to-human transmission of a potential pandemic influenza outbreak at its source fail, the resources of the USG will not be sufficient to prevent the spread of a pandemic across the nation. Accordingly, the USG will use all instruments of national power to address the pandemic threat. Any effective response will require the full participation of all levels of government and the private sector."

Quarantine? It's a very limited strategy due to a very short incubation period of two days when an infected person has no idea he or she has been exposed to the virus, according to the plan.

"Quarantine and other movement restrictions, especially if the restrictions are involuntary, will have minimal effect on the spread of the disease due to a very short incubation period and the ability of asymptomatic individuals to shed the virus."

Though government reliance on "just-in-time procurement will compete adversely with U.S. and foreign civilian businesses for availability of critical supplies," the Department of Defense will "will provide distribution of medical supplies and medications in support of pandemic influenza preparedness and response efforts, when directed by the President or upon approval by the Secretary of Defense of a request from a Federal department or agency."

The government will maintain all stockpiles of medicine.

The best bet for individual survival and the well-being of the family is to stay to yourselves, have plenty of food and water on hand, don't go to work or school until the infection passes, and get vaccinated well in advance as the service becomes available. Diabetics, the elderly and kids need vaccination for the regular seasonal flu, the elderly for pneumonia and everyone needs to be inoculated for the H1N1 swine flu virus.

Here are the six stages of pandemic according to the United Nations's World Health Organization.

"In Phase 1 no viruses circulating among animals have been reported to cause infections in humans.

"In Phase 2 an animal influenza virus circulating among domesticated or wild animals is known to have caused infection in humans, and is therefore considered a potential pandemic threat.

"In Phase 3, an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus has caused sporadic cases or small clusters of disease in people, but has not resulted in human-to-human transmission sufficient to sustain community-level outbreaks.

"Phase 4 is characterized by verified human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza reassortant virus able to cause "community-level outbreaks." The ability to cause sustained disease outbreaks in a community marks a significant upwards shift in the risk for a pandemic.

"Phase 5 is characterized by human-to-human spread of the virus into at least two countries in one WHO region. While most countries will not be affected at this stage, the declaration of Phase 5 is a strong signal that a pandemic is imminent and that the time to finalize the organization, communication, and implementation of the planned mitigation measures is short.

"Phase 6, the pandemic phase, is characterized by community level outbreaks in at least one other country in a different WHO region in addition to the criteria defined in Phase 5. Designation of this phase will indicate that a global pandemic is under way."

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Here are links to the information used in this report:

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