Saturday, October 08, 2005

Draft plan leaked to The Times

So an almost final still-draft pandemic flu plan has been given to the New York Times (why just to them?). The Times headline says it all: U.S. Not Ready for Deadly Flu, Bush Plan Shows.
A plan developed by the Bush administration to deal with any possible outbreak of pandemic flu shows that the United States is woefully unprepared for what could become the worst disaster in the nation's history.

A draft of the final plan, which has been years in the making and is expected to be released later this month, says that a large outbreak that began in Asia would, because of modern travel patterns, likely reach the United States within "a few months or even weeks."

If such an outbreak occurred, hospitals would become overwhelmed; riots would engulf vaccination clinics; and even power and food would be in short supply, the plan, obtained by The New York Times, says.

The 381-page plan calls for quarantine and travel restrictions but concedes that such measures "are unlikely to delay introduction of pandemic disease into the U.S. by more than a month or two."

The plan's 10 supplements suggest specific ways that local and state governments, and hospitals and healthcare workers should prepare now for an eventual pandemic by, for instance, drafting legal documents now that would justify quarantining thousands.

The plan outlines a worst-case scenario in which more than 1.9 million Americans would die and 8.5 million would be hospitalized with costs exceeding $450 billion. (New York Times)
Duh. Give me some news.

The plan also calls for ratcheting up domestic vaccine production tenfold in six months. Hmmm. That implies that if they had started six months ago we'd have it now. The plan includes a mini-scenario (not as good as the ones you can read on the Flu Wiki, but serviceable):
"In April of the current year, an outbreak of severe respiratory illness is identified in a small village."

"Twenty patients have required hospitalization at the local provincial hospital, five of whom have died from pneumonia and respiratory failure," the plan states.

The flu spreads and begins to make headlines around the world. Top health officials swing into action and isolate the new viral strain in laboratories. The scientists discover that "the vaccine developed previously for the avian strain will only provide partial protection," the plan states.
In June, federal health officials find airline passengers infected with the virus "arriving in four major U.S. cities," the plan states. By July, small outbreaks are being reported around the nation. It spreads. As the outbreak peaks, about a quarter of workers stay home because they are sick or afraid to become sick.

Hospitals are overwhelmed. "Social unrest occurs," the plan states. "Public anxiety heightens mistrust of government, diminishing compliance with public health advisories." Mortuaries and funeral homes are overwhelmed.

Police, fire and transportation services are limited by personnel shortages, the plan states, and even food and power are in short supply. Pig herds are decimated.
So why now?
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush Administration's efforts to plan for a possible pandemic flu have become controversial, with many Democrats in Congress charging that the administration has not done enough. Many have pointed to the lengthy writing process of the flu plan as evidence of this. Delays by the Administration have meant that antiviral medications that are an important part of pandemic preparations are now in short supply.
Well, yes, The Dems have a point. And I have a companion point to put to them. WHERE THE FUCK HAVE YOU GUYS BEEN FOR THE LAST YEAR?