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October 15, 2005


A WaPo story includes this interesting/frightening note: "The girl harbored three strains -- one resistant to oseltamivir, one partially resistant and one susceptible. All three were probably descended from the single strain that initially infected her." That indicates a fast mutation rate.

In terms of "worst-case" planning, I have a post where I list some things a plan should include, based on my reading of The Great Influenza, by John Barry. It includes things like:

- All city and town administrators (city managers, mayors, councilmen, etc.) notified of steps to be taken in event of pandemic (school closings, closing movie houses, cancellation of events with large public attendance, temporary hospital openings, etc.)

- For each city, town, and state clear (and lengthy) lines of succession for all critical positions of authority--i.e., who succeeds to a position in the event the current holder is incapacitated, dies, or cannot be located. Positions for which such succession must be defined include civil authorities, police chief, health authorities, coroners, fire chief, and the like.

- How to keep essential functions operational even when many personnel fall ill--e.g., combining fire stations if there are too few ambulatory firefighters at a station to effectively fight a fire.

Good points. There are some simple, commonsense ways to fight the spread of the flu, like--make sure you get enough sleep and keep your stress levels relatively low, so your immune system stays strong. Sort of the personal-ecological conservation-minded approach. And as likely to be governmentally encouraged as real energy conservation has been so far.

excellent ideas. When flu spawns, it's produces many different mutations because RNA is such an unstable genetic template (DNA viruses are more stable and evolve or mutate less quickly). Some scientists have labelled the progeny of influenza a 'mutant swarm' because the many variants produced allow for selection of a winner. Nature has perfected a killer.

Besides the 11 planning points in the post I referred to above, I commented on my own personal protection plan: avoid all crowds, wash hands often, etc. I also ordered a supply of surgical masks, since I suspect they'll be hard to find when the pandemic really hits. The Great Influenza really lays it all out quite well: what worked, what didn't, what steps were taken, what steps that should have been taken that weren't, etc.

For those politically inclined, The Great Influenza (a terrific book) lays out how to make things worse as well: do what the wilson administration did. Lie about the degree and the depth of the problem to avoid morale issues during a war.

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