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H1N1 (Swine Flu): Now That We Are At A “Four” – Now What?

April 27, 2009

Today, the WHO Director-General raised the level of influenza pandemic alert from the current phase 3 to phase 4.  What does this mean?

  • Phase 4 is characterized by verified, sustained human-to-human transmission of an animal or human-animal influenza 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 4 indicates a significant increase in risk of a pandemic but does not necessarily mean that a pandemic is a forgone conclusion.
  • The Director-General recommended not to close borders and not to restrict international travel. It was considered prudent for people who are ill to delay international travel and for people developing symptoms following international travel to seek medical attention.

You still have a bit of time to develop some plans and determine your next course of action.  How much time?  Frankly, no one knows. This may blow over in a few weeks or not.  It also has the potential to come back in the fall with gusto.

Michael Osterholm from CIDRAP stated in a special “Osterholm Briefing”, “Here’s the straight story. The swine flu outbreak cannot be contained. It has already leaked out of Mexico to the rest of the world. The possibilities for containment are long gone. However, we can take actions to reduce the transmission of the virus between people. He also states, ” it may take only days to move to the next (pandemic) phase. Stay tuned”.

What is the definition of a Phase 5? 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.  http://www.who.int/csr/disease/avian_influenza/phase/en/index.html

Sounds like we are in a Phase 5, no?

Where to begin?  Pandemic plans are divided into two areas:
•    Non-Pharmacological Interventions
•    Pharmacological Interventions

Check out the white papers on the EMS Solutions website – we have a detailed discussion of what should be in your plan in these two areas. http://www.ems-solutionsinc.com/handouts_whitepapers.html

Start today – start now!

One Comment leave one →
  1. Brent Ross permalink
    April 28, 2009 10:27

    This is so helpful Regina, thanks for putting it together. I particularly appreciate how your blog is filling in all the gaps that we aren’t getting from the new media. If you could do a post on how organizational plans complement local municipal planning efforts, that would be great – it came up this morning in conversation with our business manager here as we are looking at what’s next.

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