Saturday, March 7, 2009

Scientists say bird flu pandemic is certain

Probably a little off-topic, but this story from the Disaster News Network raises some important issues in risk and public health: …Many scientists are now sure that a version of H5N1, or the avian flu, will cause a pandemic in the future. While speaking to health officials at the National Emergency Management Summit Thursday, several experts said the issue was no longer an "if" issue, it was now "when." Without knowing when a pandemic will hit, many hospitals and the government are doing what they can to try to prepare the U.S. for the event.

"In 2005 then President George Bush announced a national strategy for pandemic influenza," said Dr. Robin Robinson, senior project officer of the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "It was a pandemic influenza implementation plan.”… “We also wanted to make sure we could have everyone in the U.S. vaccinated within six months of the pandemic declaration," Robinson said.

…All the preparations could wear some down, though, according to P.J. Havice-Cover, a mental health professional and program coordinator for the state of Colorado.…Havice-Cover said we are over-warned in our lives and that causes a numbness to warnings for major events like a pandemic.

"When you tell people to listen to warnings, they don't listen," she said. "There are warning labels on everything. We've heard the warnings over and over and over again, that we've become deaf to them. Ignoring the warning has become an art."

…Havice-Cover stressed the importance of preparing mentally for a pandemic. She said people will go through several stages, including depression and anger. "Grief and loss is a certainty in planning for the pandemic," she said. "You can respect and normalize people's grieving processes by giving them updates on progress. Don't just ignore the losses. If you're in a position to inform the public, talk about it. Community memorial services are very important."

…According to Havice-Cover, eventually the pandemic will subside, but it is important not to expect life to begin quickly again. "Once the community is allowed to return to normal activities, some people are going to do that, but some are going to be very cautious. These are both very normal responses. But Havice-Cover was confident people would get through the pandemic. "Resillience and change is a given; challenges help us grow."

Turner's "The Fifth Plague of Egypt" (1800)