Sunday, October 15, 2006


Wow. Not exactly the most heartening news for Americans about how their government is planning to cope with the "inevitable" bird flu pandemic.

Harsh, but ultimately realistic. To a point.

Home quarantine is likely to stop you catching pandemic bird flu from a stranger in the street, but is it really possible to lock yourself away from the world for the eight to twelve weeks each wave of pandemic bird flu is expected to be in circulation?

But then, if you catch bird flu during a pandemic, you are unlikely to find help at your local hospital.

If the pandemic hits and millions are infected, all the hospitals of the world are not going to cope. Not that you would want all the infected crowded together in hospitals anyway.

Isolation and quarantine were discovered to be about the best 'cure' there was for the 1918-1919 pandemic. It appears little has changed nearly 90 years later.

From :
Could you work from home for weeks at a time? How long could you hole up without needing to go to the grocery or drugstore? Would you be willing to wear a face mask and isolate yourself from others?

...the US government wraps up work on a plan to use primitive infection-control measures to deal with a killer flu outbreak until drugs and vaccine become available.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is pitching the plan at medical meetings and aims to send it out for review by the end of the year.

State and local governments have asked for unusually detailed and specific advice on such matters as closing schools and canceling public events, one CDC official said.

This week, CDC awarded $5.2 million in grants related to the plan, including research on whether to recommend face masks to the public. CDC also asked the Institute of Medicine, a group of scientific advisers, to meet on these measures later this month.

"We can't afford to neglect some of the traditional approaches to contagion control because we very well may find ourselves in a situation where that's all we've got for a period of time," said CDC's quarantine chief, Dr. Marty Cetron.

As for hygiene tips like sneezing into your sleeve, "we have no data that that makes any difference" in controlling a pandemic...

...voluntary quarantine, voluntary isolation of infected people and hygiene measures like hand washing, "cough etiquette" and face masks might help (combat the spread of pandemic bird flu)

The CDC plan will list multiple scenarios for pandemics that range in severity or attack certain age groups like children or college students, and recommend corresponding control measures.

These will include voluntary isolation of sick people, voluntary quarantine for those exposed to the germ but are not ill, and protective sequestration to separate healthy people or communities from a source of infection.

Scientists know flu spreads through hand contact and big droplets when people cough or sneeze, but they don't know how far tiny particles remain in the air, or how important that is for spreading the germ.

In fact, experts know surprisingly little about what enables a flu germ to spread.
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