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U.S. Issues Guidelines in Case of Flu Pandemic

Written By: Jason Shafrin - Feb• 02•07

The New York Times reports today (“…Guidelines…“) that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued new guidelines on how to prevent or mitigate an influenza pandemic. Some of the major non-pharmaceutical interventions are:

  1. Asking ill persons to remain at home or not go to work until they are no longer contagious (seven to 10 days). Ill persons will be treated with antiviral medication if drugs are available and effective against the pandemic strain.
  2. Asking household members of ill persons to stay at home for seven days
  3. Dismissing students from schools, halting school-based activities (e.g.: after-school programs), and closing child care programs for up to three months for the most severe pandemics, and reducing contact among kids and teens in the community
  4. Recommending social distancing of adults in the community and at work, which may include closing large public gatherings, changing workplace environments (e.g.: telecommuting), reducing public transportation density, and shifting work schedules without disrupting essential services.

Also, flu outbreaks will be categorized into five groups by the severity or number of potential deaths. Recommendations are given at each category level.

The complete CDC report has the catchy title “Interim Pre-pandemic Planning Guidance: Community Strategy for Pandemic Influenza Mitigation in the United States—Early, Targeted, Layered Use of Nonpharmaceutical Interventions.” The full report can be found here.

A more concise review of the CDC guidelines can be found at the Avian Flu Diary blog.

One critic of the CDC plan is Dr. Hillel W. Cohen, Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Population Health of Yeshiva University. On the Medical News Today website (“Einstein Epidemiologist…“), Cohen states that the CDC guidelines to increase telecommuting and reduce public transportation density may be feasible for the wealthy and middle class, but not the poor. Will workers at Wal-Mart or McDonald’s be able to telecommute to work? Of course not. Further, individuals without access to a car rely on public transportation and will have no means of transportation if public transportation is shut down. Cohen concludes “Many workers have little or no paid sick time and those who live paycheck to paycheck will not be able to do this. The government proposal that employers voluntarily provide pay to workers who stay home is not serious.”

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