Monday, September 26, 2005

Making a list, checking it twice

This is the sort of thing you can find over at the Flu Wiki, but I figured I'd post it front and center here because y'all can discuss it if you wish. It's the WHO checklist for influenza pandemic preparedness. It's 29 pages long so I'm not going to try to summarize the whole thing, but it's amazing how many of the specific points are exactly what we don't seem to have together here in the Greatest Country in the World, based on recent experience.


1.2 Command and control
In order to be able to make clear and timely decisions and to have a uniform policy that is endorsed by all officials, it is essential to know who is in charge of different activities within communicable disease control, and how that might change if a limited outbreak becomes a major emergency.
In addition, it is essential to know who is in charge of key elements in the response (e.g. travel or trade bans, enforcement of quarantine).

So who is it? CDC, DHS, local officials, the Army? It seems we're still trying to sort all that out. . .

Then there's public communication, which I posted about earlier:

1.4.1 Public communication

Develop a communication plan that addresses different target groups (e.g. press, general public, health-care workers, parliament, specific risk groups), key messages to be put across, possible materials that are needed (web sites, leaflets, information in different languages, etc.) and distribution mechanisms to reach the target groups.
As part of the plan, consider establishing an official national or regional influenza pandemic web site. Link this web site with similar ones developed by other countries, after evaluation of the quality and relevance of the information provided on these other sites.
Ensure a good relation with professional specialists able to help with development of accurate and timely messages, before and during a pandemic.
During the interpandemic period, develop fact sheets or other general information on pandemic preparedness for distribution to various target groups, including professional and community groups. Ensure national consistency of locally produced fact sheets.
Nominate pandemic spokespersons at the national and regional levels. These persons would be responsible for all media presentations to the broader community. Ensure adequate technical support at the national and regional levels for these spokespersons.

Then there's this one, that I also posted about earlier (unfortunately):

1.5.1 Legal issues
During a pandemic, it may be necessary to overrule existing legislation or (individual) human rights. Examples are the enforcement of quarantine (overruling individual freedom of movement), use of privately owned buildings for hospitals, off-license use of drugs, compulsory vaccination or implementation of emergency shifts in essential services. These decisions need a legal framework to ensure transparent assessment and justification of the measures that are being considered, and to ensure coherence with international legislation (International Health Regulations).

I'm sure that somewhere in the labyrinth of the bureaucracy, people are planning away at all this stuff. But there sure hasn't been much public discussion of it, and as far as I can tell from events surrounding a certain hurricane, we sure don't have answers. Maybe now that we have suddenly discovered that natural disasters do happen, even in the United States, we can at least get started.