Sunday, October 25, 2009

What does this national "H1N1 emergency" really mean?

President Obama declared a national H1N1 emergency because of the public health burden caused by the H1N1 pandemic. According to CNN:
"The 2009 H1N1 pandemic continues to evolve. The rates of illness continue to rise rapidly within many communities across the nation, and the potential exists for the pandemic to overburden health care resources in some localities," Obama said in a statement.
Are we as a national really prepared to deal with this outbreak? According to that same CNN story:
Obama's action allows Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius "to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements" to help health care facilities enact emergency plans to deal with the pandemic.
Now, what exactly does this mean? How much latitude do we have here? I suppose much of that will ultimately depend on the severity of the outbreaks. We're in a terrible situation here. We don't have any H1N1 vaccines. Many people still aren't immunized against the seasonal flu. H1N1 continues to spread and we recognize that we can't effectively stop that spread. Healthy people are getting very ill. Young children and teenagers are dying from H1N1. OK, it's really not that bad (yet), but it's only October!

My major concern is that so many people don't seem to recognize the serious nature of this public health emergency. There are many who are healthy and who have never experienced the flu. They can't imagine that a simple virus like the flu could be fatal.

1 comment:

  1. My concern is not that people don't understand the risk but that vaccine is not yet available for the general populace. We are told that the process is going slower than expected but are assured that this is the same process used to produce seasonal flu vaccine, a counter intuitive argument at best. My conclusion is - another bungled attempt by government to deal with a real emergency, a la Katrina.