When I was doing some work on pandemic response, practically everything I learned suggested that official actions would fail to prevent the spread of a pandemic and that successful responses would create almost as much damage as unsuccessful ones because the measures needed to contain an outbreak would disrupt our economies in near terminal ways.
Looks like the Aussies have chosen the first method. Swine flu outbreak on cruise puts authorities on full alert
ATTEMPTS to contain swine flu in Australia appear to be faltering. The number of people infected more than doubled yesterday to at least 50 and the federal Health Minister, Nicola Roxon, warned the virus was spreading fast.OK, so far, so normal, disease spreads exponentially. But you might think that after the fiasco with equine influenza a while back, the Aussies would have learned that you have exactly zero leewway for complacency. Nope.
With testing continuing at a frantic pace, NSW Health revealed late last night that another five cruise ship passengers had been struck down by the virus, taking the total to 14.
But it defended its decision to allow more than 2000 of them, many ill, to go home.That is exactly the reason I spent some time preparing for an emergency, especially a pandemic. When it comes to responding to an emergency like this, official fear of upsetting the applecart will leave them constantly running a step behind. Then 2 steps, then 4, then 8.
Hundreds of passengers who complained on disembarking of influenza-like symptoms have either not been tracked down or have yet to have their test results confirmed.
Health officials assumed [no they didn't, they hoped and hope ain't a strategy] they had common seasonal influenza until laboratory results, which came in several hours after the Pacific Dawn docked in Sydney, confirmed two young boys, an adult and a crew member had human swine influenza A (H1N1).
At the moment there seems to be a couple of variants, some that are very mild, but some that are lethal and, as the health people point out, the longer they are loose the more chances they have to evolve and we have no way to know which way that will go.
Buckle up, this ride is a long way from over.