December 1, 2008 | Mark Paradies

Are You Ready for the Flu Season? What About a Pandemic?

Thought I would pass along this e-mail from one of our TapRooT® Instructors, Dennis Osmer. he also does work on pandemic flu planning and I thought that TapRooT® Users might find this interesting…

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Dear Friends —

                Hope all of you in the U.S. had an enjoyable Thanksgiving!

                According to CDC, seasonal flu in the U.S. is below last year’s infection rate & the cases are tracking closely to the virus strains contained in this year’s vaccination — both are good news!

              Indonesia continues to restrict information about H5N1 — while Indonesia is arguably the world’s top spot of avian influenza activity, we have no official word on how rampant the virus is — Japan has sent a medical team to assist local health personnel and also monitor the flu — the most recent, unconfirmed reports are that an additional 17 people have died due to H5N1 (this will NOT show up on WHO statistics, as it can’t be confirmed via lab samples).

              WHO is in the process of updating it’s definitions of pandemic phases, adding more emphasis on social and economic effects, as well as reflecting scientific advances and increased practical experience — while still in draft, the revise level 5 is “established human-to-human transmission in two or more non-contiguous countries in one geographic region” and phase 6 is “has caused clusters of disease in at lest two of the continents …” — they are also adding several defined phases beyond level 6:

                                – post-peak period
                                – possible new wave
                                – post-pandemic period

The new phases are currently unnumbered.

                U.S. Dept. of Transportation has released 5 guidelines that will provide rules for aviation, highway, maritime, mass transit & railroads during a pandemic — if your business or employees depend on any of these transportation modes, you may want to review to ensure your own BCP is in alignment.

                Migrating waterfowl are suspected of carrying various influenza viruses — now the USGS and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service have confirmed, thru genetic evidence, that this is true —  the connection between eastern Asia & North America is validated.

                Google has announced a new site that tracks flu activity — studies show that 35 – 40% of all internet inquiries are begun by people looking for health information — many people with flu, never visit a doctor — studies indicate that internet activity data is about 2 weeks ahead of the CDCs seasonal flu tracking and is therefore, a good early warning  —

                The University of Michigan conducted a study of non-drug flu defenses — it found that wearing an N95 mask and using an alcohol based hand sanitizer can cut flu transmission by up to 50%  – One of the negative findings were that people didn’t always take the time to ensure mask fit — This clinical evidence is good news, but also indicates that multiple, overlapping strategies (i.e. social distancing, self-quarantine, etc.) are necessary.

              By staying informed and taking actions ahead of the crowd, we can survive.

Dennis Osmer
Environment, Health, Safety, & Emergency Management

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