How prepared are we for a pandemic? Many governments of the world had been planning for the next pandemic since the SARS and bird flu pandemic scares. However how much of this planning has been related to social infrastructure?
The real threat in a pandemic situation in a developed country which runs on “just in time” delivery could quite possibly be that social infrastructure is severely disrupted.
Although pandemic plans that countries have been making, will hopefully be sound, since they have never been practiced, there can be no certainty that they will actually work. The implications of quarantining the global population surely cannot be planned for without ever having encountered any similar sort of event. A number of disaster events that have occurred in recent times have shown that responses are capable of doing incredible things. However Katrina is a good example of how plans do not always work in real life scenarios. We must assume that with New Orleans being in a hurricane prone area, there were indeed plans for the worst case scenario, however something or a number of things failed.
For any society to assume that their country’s plan for dealing with a critical pandemic event, without the general population,
- knowing that plan; and
- having practised that plan,
cannot expect that plan work without any shortcomings. It is naive to believe that something of that magnitude could be planned for, without having tested your responses. Shutting all schools, businesses, local services and quarantining the entire civilian population or ensuring that all key personnel in all sectors, public and private are made aware of what role they need to play.
Does any government have any plan of that nature?
Perhaps, now would be the perfect opportunity for the world to practice what plans there are. Just if not for precaution sake, then to evaluate how well our planned responses work.
We know that it is not a matter of if it happens, but a matter of when it is going to happen. Yet in the globalised world in which we live, there has yet to have been a global response of any kind to pandemic threat. We have not collectively rehearsed any pandemic response. It seems incredibly foolish to wait for our first actual full response to be when an actual pandemic has established. That is a recipe for failure and in terms of a critical pandemic event, it is a recipe for disaster on a scale of which may never have been seen before.
The pandemic event that cripples a society will be a catalyst for social chaos as infrastructure services fail and those failures cause a chain reaction within other interconnected and dependent infrastructure. It is not that hard to imagine what chaos would ensue if a metropolitan area lost water services for few days. In a real pandemic event, every single person is a possible threat and no one will want to be near any other people apart from family, locked in their own homes. Who will want to go to work and mingle? How many key personnel may be lost? Enough for a complete failure of infrastructure services?
Is it even possible to contain a civilian population in every town and city in a country or indeed the world?
Unfortunately, although we live in times of great discovery and ingenuity, we also live in times when as a global entity, we are still in our infancy.
Unfortunately, the chances of governments around the world implementing a practice run of anything that involves disrupting the population or perhaps more importantly the economy, is probably next to zero.
It makes one wonder what it will take for the world to realize and prepare for that inevitable event. A real pandemic perhaps? Unfortunately, we are too short sighted to see that.
There was an attempt made recently tackle a problem on a global scale, the economic crisis and that did not seem to have the desired result. A hurried plan was implemented and seemingly made little difference, apart from costing a lot of money. We could not respond to the economic crisis, why are we reporting that we are better prepared for a pandemic than at any other time before. Because we have stock piled drugs for a different strain? Fine the drugs are effective for this strain as well, luckily. Could they deliver those drugs to the population?
If we have not experienced or even simulated what may actually happen and had a chance to evaluate and review that outcome of how effective our responses were under those circumstances. How can we even suggest that we are prepared?
It is fairly logical to assume that if the “plans” were put in place in the next 24 hours, we would get a fair idea of how effectively they worked and as a bonus, it may have some affect on the distribution of the virus.
Swine flu may not be the pandemic, but it would be a waste of the opportunity and the people’s lives that have died so far, to not consider this as the real thing.
Surely it is time for us to conduct a pandemic drill, just like fire drills and earthquake drills, etc.
It is only a matter of time.
The most critical element in the survival rate in a proper critical pandemic, will be our response. Yet we still have not bothered to practise it??
Do you know what to expect and do in a pandemic? Are you a key worker that has been advised of your role? If you are let us know.
Interesting reads - Will a pandemic bring down civilisation? - http://www.science.org.au/nova/newscientist/094ns_001.htm The beginning of a pandemic? - http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/susanwatts/2009/04/the_beginning_of_a_pandemic.html