Pandemic Flu Awareness Week 2006

October 9–15, 2006

Semana de Conciencia Pandémica Gripal 2006

Flu Wiki, in association with the blogosphere and all other interested individuals and groups, will use October 9–15, 2006 as Pandemic Flu Awareness Week.

Press release
Press release UK
Red Ribbon Pandemic Awareness Campaign
Expert Opinion About The Possibility Of A Flu Pandemic

Bird flu means pandemic risk. A pandemic could start at any time and, with modern travel, be all over the world in just a few days. Many people would be ill, a number would die, and we might run short of basic things like food, water and other supplies. We need to prepare for all of that now when there’s no pandemic, because there will be no time to prepare when the pandemic comes, and governments can not prepare everything for everyone.

The purpose of Pandemic Flu Awareness Week, and the Flu Wiki, is to allow the dissemination of information about pandemic flu preparation down to the local level so that everyone can use each others’ experience, planning and ideas. Flu Wiki is a non-profit website, and does not endorse specific products. More information about Flu Wiki can be found here.

Blogs, media and other sources of information who choose to participate can use Flu Wiki and its list of Links and Other Sources such as:

Unfortunately, a pandemic can’t be ‘organized away’ into insignificance. But planning and participation can enable you to help your local authorities and public officials share information and begin dealing with the tough issues such as rationing of medications or hospital beds. A broader knowledge base will better allow you to be an effective participant in these very important discussions. There are many approaches to planning for a possible pandemic. What most experts seem to agree about: Do something rather than nothing; do more if you can, so you will be able to help others; learn enough to decide for yourself how much to do.

Q Is bird flu the same as pandemic flu?

No, at least we hope not. Bird flu refers to the current H5N1 virus circulating in wild birds, poultry, and on occasion humans. Pandemic flu refers to any flu virus that causes a worldwide epidemic of influenza, which last happened in 1968. Both, by the way, are different than seasonal flu, which occurs every year. The three flus are explained here. No one can predict the next pandemic or say with certainty whether H5N1 will fully adapt to humans and be the source of the next pandemic. However, H5N1 is being closely watched because in some ways it resembles the virus of 1918-9 and because of its lethality and geographic spread.

Q Why do I need to learn about pandemic flu?

This is the first time the general public has been urged to get ready for a disaster as unpredictable as a pandemic — a disaster of unknown timing and severity. No one can predict whether the current H5N1 virus will cause the next pandemic. But if it does, there is a significant chance that the severity will surpass even the worst pandemic of the 20th century. The strain of pandemic flu that swept round the world in 1918–19 killed more people in 18 months than all those who died in WWI and WW II put together. The 1918 virus had a fatality rate of around 2.5–5%. According to WHO, the current H5N1 virus is killing on average 58% of those infected. Even though most experts believe that this figure will drop significantly if the virus turns into a pandemic strain, no one has been able to come up with scientific evidence to support that as a certainty. Even if true, the fatality rate has a long way to drop from 58% to 2.5%.

Q Won’t the government do this preparation for us?

The scope of a pandemic is beyond what the federal, state or local governments and health departments can cope with alone. If 30% of the work force is out sick, everything from hospitals to supermarkets (and possibly the internet) might not be functioning normally. Nor would “help” be available because the same thing would be happening in neighboring communities and states. In addition, vaccines can not be counted on to protect us. Right now, the best estimates are that it will take a least six months from the start of a pandemic for a vaccine to be available, and even then, there likely will not be enough to go around, at least at first.

Q What should I do to prepare?

Anticipate shortages in perishable foods, water, and common household emergency supplies. The federal government recommends stockpiling non-perishable food items, water, prescription medications, portable radios, batteries, flashlights, garbage bags, and manual can openers. Because we use just-in-time inventory systems, a flu pandemic today may be much more disruptive than a flu pandemic in the past. Globalization means that we are much more interdependent. We need to make plans both for our needs and the needs of our communities. The ‘best’ minds are not of one mind about what to do. That’s a little scary, but it is the truth. They are giving us suggestions, but they are also telling us to decide for ourselves. We’re all in this together; no one has ever done this before.

Q How can I prepare my family?

The U.S. HHS site suggests having food and water on hand for two weeks. That’s a good starting point, but many scientific and government experts agree that individuals might need to be prepared for 6 weeks or more in a worst case, based on previous pandemics and their length. Whatever the length, preparation should include prescription and non-prescription medicines and key supplies such as batteries, radios and other emergency preparations one would ordinarily make for severe storms or other natural disasters.

Q How can I help prepare my community?

Some experts are predicting that 30% or more of the workforce may be ill during a pandemic. Local communities will have to strengthen their resources in order to keep essential services running. Your local utilities, schools and hospitals should all be making plans. The US government has checklists here. You can find more on Flu Wiki at the Business Continuity link, and more information on the Pandemic Preparedness page as well.

Q What is the current situation?

H5N1 has spread human-to-human-to-human, at least once. This increases the risk of a pandemic occuring. The WHO tracks current outbreaks, as do Flu Wiki posters in the Forum (with a summary of confirmed cases and links to maps), other flu boards, and the many news aggregators found on the Resources page.

Q How can I help raise my community’s Pandemic Influenza Awareness?

Please join our grassroots red ribbon campaign in your community by making and wearing red ribbons with the bright gold initials P and A on them. You can also choose a button or magnet design. Hand out the reference cards which provide websites for more information. Designs and instructions can be found here. This is a good example of how fluwiki has collaboratively developed an idea to help raise community awareness. There are also letters and other resources if you want to raise awareness in your community.

Please join us in sharing this message with your community.

Page last modified on October 12, 2009, at 03:18 PM by pogge