The federal government yesterday revealed its guidance for what to do to fight pandemic influenza in the months before a vaccine becomes available.
In addition, the CDC is suggested that children should play mostly with their siblings and parents should be prepared to loose income as they skip work and combine childcare arrangements.
"The threat of a pandemic continues to be real. We need to continue helping state and local decision-makers determine some of the specific actions they could take during the course of a pandemic to reduce illness and save lives," said Mike Leavitt, Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
"We have tools in our tool kit that we can use now to slow down pandemic flu," said Martin Cetron, the director of global migration and quarantine at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the country's chief public health agency. "These are tools we just are not used to using in recent decades, when all the attention has been on magic bullets."
The 106-page document is the government's latest effort to help prepare the United States for a global flu epidemic that most specialists say is inevitable. It outlines "non pharmaceutical interventions" against a virus that can sometimes be caught simply by standing near an infected person. The chief strategy is to keep people physically apart as much as possible during the six- to eight-week waves of illness that characterize pandemics.
The document suggests that Americans will spend most of their time with close relatives and a few neighbors. They probably wouldn't go to the movies, run to the supermarket on a whim, or hug people they barely know. The sick would be cared for at home unless they were near death. Everyone would avoid the homes of the ill.
Furthermore, the CDC forecasts, many adults would simply telecommute to work as is during inclement weather. Children would probably still do their homework but they would it in over the Internet. Prescription drugs would be prescribed liberally as preventive medicines in households where someone is sick. A government-woven safety net would probably provide food, personal care, and financial assistance to people who couldn't cope on their own.
The guidance was developed through a collaborative process that included public health officials, mathematical modelers, researchers, and stakeholders from government, academia, private industry, education, and civic and faith-based organizations. The CDC said it will be refined as needed based on further knowledge gained from research, exercises, and practical experience.
Read more on the CDC website.
Meanwhile, Senior U.N. System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza Dr. David Nabarro, in a recent e-mail interview with Kyodo News, called for a strengthened vigilance against bird flu for several more months following a series of outbreaks in Japan since January.
"Looking at the past experiences, it has become clear that between November and May each year, the virus is most likely to spread, so we need to maintain and increase our vigilance at least next couple months," Nabarro said in the interview last month.
"We have to bear in mind that H5N1 has been circulating in poultry within some parts of Asia since late 2003, and unless we do take appropriate and prompt measures, this virus can be easily spread to other parts of the world," he warned.
Nabarro also admitted that the possibility is "high" that new outbreaks can occur in other locations even with the best actions taken as of now due to things such as silent infection among wild birds, as well as millions of backyard chickens without proper bio-security and also human and poultry movements.