Saturday, June 25, 2005

Flu: "We're not in Kansas anymore"

I won't dwell on the new report (.pdf) by The Trust for America's Health (TAH) on US unpreparedness for an influenza pandemic. It's all over the newswires and says the same things this and many other sources (including TAH) have been saying for a long time. Here's the gist, boiled down to two paragraphs and three sentences from the story on Yahoo:
"The U.S. lags in pandemic preparations compared to Great Britain and Canada based on an examination of leadership, vaccine development, vaccine and antiviral planning, health care system surge capacity planning, coordination between public and private sectors, and emergency communications planning."

Health officials are aware of the warnings and say they are developing a plan. The heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and Health and Human Services Department are regularly called to hearings before Congress on the issue.
Regarding the first paragraph, TAH points out (for starters) the US has under a million staffed hospital beds while reasonable estimates of the number that could require hospitalization are up to two million. That will be quite cozy.

Regarding the second paragraph . . . aaargh! It's accurate all right. Health officials have been testifying: "Yes, it's a serious concern. But we're doing the best we can and we are actively getting ready and we will be ready." (my paraphrase of their prevarications). And don't forget: "We've broken the backs of the insurgency in Iraq," "Social security will go broke," and "There's no scientific proof on global warming."

Note to the Administration: The influenza A virus doesn't know evolution is a hoax. We're not in Kansas anymore.