PANDEMONIUM IN TERROR
The CDC headquarters downtown. (P. K. Vann/Getty Images)
Today’s pandemic preparedness is “the game changer” that will encourage communities to be stronger defenders of health, said two authors of a new book outlining innovations to promote health during and after epidemics.
A year ago, the United States prepared for the worst as cases of the Ebola virus cropped up in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services used mass transit extensively to enable workers to get to hospitals and clinics. In the midst of the world’s worst Ebola outbreak, the CDC quickly moved to establish dozens of field centers where workers came to answer telephones, distribute vaccines and other supplies and assess the effectiveness of measures designed to help a patient or stop a new outbreak.
Ebola was far from the first epidemic to send the people of its host countries into a panic. Among the lessons the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has learned during years of reacting to global disease threats are:
— It’s often the unexpected or unexpected virus that turns a situation upside down.
— Fear itself is not enough to stem an epidemic.
— It’s difficult to be effective in the field.
— It’s impossible to estimate how a set of rules will work — yet it’s what governments need to know.
Now, as a health threat develops elsewhere — at a time of political unrest and hardship — the question is who will step up to speed agencies across federal government, from local to state and international. The answer is: anyone willing to step up to the plate.
One of the best examples of government leaders taking collective action on public health has been the mobilization during Haiti’s 2010 earthquake, said Dr. Jeffrey Levi, the director of the Trust for America’s Health.