All entries for Monday 10 April 2006

April 10, 2006

Influenza Pandemic Contingency Plans

Writing about Why H5N1 isn't to be taken so lightly from From tractors to reactors

This has been covered elsewhere on the blogs, so I won't repeat it all here but this comment was getting too long, so it's now a trackback.

I've just scanned through the Health Department's Flu Pandemic Contingency Plan . While it does seem they are aware of the issue there are some worrying things in there. Firstly, there doesn't seem to be any description of what will actually be done. There is a whole page of actual plan which is entirely devoted to convening comitees, reviewing proceedures, forming sub-groups and sending information around. This is all for after the WHO announces a 'Phase 5' pandemic alert, which basically translates to 'Holy shit, here it comes, we're all gonna die' and doesn't stike me as the time to be turning into Vogons.

Also, they say this:

In the event of a novel influenza virus causing significant outbreaks of
human illness elsewhere in the world, it is unlikely that the UK could
prevent importation (except by closing all borders); even a 99.9%
restriction of travel into the country would only be expected to delay
importation of the virus by up to two months.

They've written the "except by closing all borders" in brackets as if it's an absolutely proposterous idea. Is it? Am I the only one who thinks that an international pandemic with a possible fatality rate of as much as 50% is not a good enough reason to shut down all travel in and out of the country? Even if it only holds it off for a few months, as they point out futher up in the report this is about the time it takes to start producing a vaccine which otherwise wouldn't be ready until well after the first wave has been and gone. Civil liberties are a great thing, but you can't use them if you're dead.

Also as far as I can tell, thought I haven't read it properly, they are working on a 0.37% predicted fatality rate, with the maximum they even considered being about 2.5%. The New Scientist articles seem think that it could be anywhere between 0 and 50%.

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