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CONTACT: Melanie Mattson is the official Flu Wiki 1 contact person at [email protected]

Pandemic Flu Awareness Week

Red Ribbon Pandemic Awareness Campaign

The message of Pandemic Flu Awareness Week is simple:

Be Informed, Get Prepared, Do It Now.

Flu Wiki has launched the Pandemic Flu Awareness Week: October 9–15 2006. Flu Wiki is an internet-based non-profit resource whose members include scientists, health professionals, and concerned individuals dedicated to educating the public on pandemic planning and mitigation. This international campaign seeks to change public focus from “bird” flu to the dangers of “pandemic” flu. An influenza pandemic occurs when a new highly contagious flu strain emerges for which humans have no immunity. A pandemic will occur if the H5N1 avian flu virus, currently circulating in more than 50 countries, acquires the ability to transmit efficiently from human to human. This virus has already achieved limited human-to-human transmission as acknowledged by the World Health Organization (WHO)2,3,4, and the final step to a global pandemic could occur soon.

International leaders are concerned that a pandemic will cause millions of deaths worldwide and that even a mild pandemic will have a devastating effect on our highly globalized and interdependent world. Indeed, the World Economic Forum has ranked pandemic flu among the top four global risks.5 According to the WHO, “Pandemics are remarkable global events. They spread to all parts of the world very quickly and cause illness in more than 25% of the total population.”6 Dr. Martin Meltzer of the Centers for Disease Control, an expert on the societal impact of diseases, warns that “There is no healthcare system anywhere in the world that can cope with even a mild pandemic like the one in 1968.”7 The current H5N1 virus disproportionately targets children and young adults, with a fatality rate this year of 70–80% for those aged 10 to 29.8 Obviously, no one can predict when the next pandemic will occur or how many lives it will claim. It is expected that even during a mild pandemic at least 30% of the workforce would not report for work for extended periods due to sickness or caring for family members.9 These grim predictions apply to all industries, all businesses, and all countries. These effects dramatically increase the risk of food and fuel shortages and disruptions in electricity, natural gas, safe drinking water, and other services. In addition, schools, banks, stores, restaurants, government offices, and post offices may be closed for extended periods of time.

Accordingly, Pandemic Flu Awareness Week will focus on education and building personal, family, and community resilience. Actions required to prepare for a pandemic include storing essential provisions, such as food, water, and medications. The US Department of Health & Human Services website (www.pandemicflu.gov) recommends that a two-week supply of water, nonperishable foods, and medications be stocked for each household member.10 Many scientific and government experts are urging individuals and families to be prepared for six weeks11 or longer. In past pandemics, three waves, each lasting six to eight weeks, have occurred. Pandemic preparation should include prescription and non-prescription medications, as well as other emergency supplies.12

Flu Wiki has compiled information online at www.fluwikie.com. This website, assembled entirely by anonymous volunteers, has been hailed as “the best one-stop resource” by Harvard Business Review 13 and called the “Encyclopedia Influenzae” by the prestigious journal Science 14. Topics include Q&A’s on flu, why you should take action, essential preparations, effects on schools and travel, what to do if healthcare is not available, how to help your neighbors and community, and more. The public is invited to download and use any of this material.

Volunteers of the Pandemic Flu Awareness Week campaign will be wearing and distributing red ribbons embossed with gold letters— P (for Pandemic) and A (for Awareness); as well as passing out information cards. The public is invited to participate by making and wearing ribbons from instructions available at Flu Wiki Red Ribbon Pandemic Awareness Campaign.15 Individuals are encouraged to spread the word in their communities.

References:

  1. www.fluwikie.com
  2. Probable Person-to-Person Transmission of Avian Influenza A (H5N1), Ungchusak, New England Journal of Medicine, Jan 05
  3. Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Infection in Humans, WHO Writing Committee on Human Influenza A/H5, NEJM, Sep 2005
  4. WHO Update on Indonesia 23 May 2006
  5. World Economic Forum Global Risk Report 2006
  6. WHO report Avian Influenza: Assessing the Pandemic Threat Jan 2005
  7. Meltzer MI, Lancet Asia Forum, Singapore, May 2006
  8. WHO report Epidemiology of WHO-confirmed human cases of avian A(H5N1) infection 30 June 2006
  9. US HHS Pandemic Flu website, pandemicflu.gov Pandemic Planning Assumptions
  10. US HHS Pandemic Flu Website, pandemicflu.gov Individuals & Families Planning
  11. Nebraska HHS pandemic flu brochure
  12. Flu Wiki Emergency Preparedness Links Page
  13. Harvard Business Review Special Report, Preparing for a Pandemic, May 2006
  14. Science Magazine, Netwatch, Vol. 311. no. 5766, p. 1353, 10 March 2006
  15. Flu Wiki Red Ribbon Pandemic Awareness Campaign

“Fluwikians” are united in the quest to increase awareness of the need for international pandemic preparedness by wearing and distributing the Pandemic Awareness ribbons as shown here during the upcoming Pandemic Flu Awareness Week of October 9–15, 2006.

Page last modified on February 14, 2007, at 06:52 PM by pogge