Friday, February 17, 2006

Bring Out Yer Dead!

But I'm not dead yet!:
When burying a body in the backyard, don't put it too close to the septic system. That was one piece of advice offered on Wednesday to a business conference on preparing for a potentially lethal bird flu andemic.

Preparations for a global flu pandemic, which many experts believe is overdue, have begun but the grisly details are horrific and the number of sick could quickly overwhelm the health care system.

..."We talk about how people should bury their dead in their backyards, how far from the septic systems," said Dorothy Teeter, director of the King County public health department in Seattle. "In case you're wondering, it's $20 apiece for high-quality body bags. In New Orleans (after Hurricane Katrina) they had to double-bag bodies."

Refrigerated trucks will be needed to ship and store food and medicines and will not be available for corpses, a mistake made by federal authorities who commandeered trucks after Katrina, said James Caverly of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Communicating the truth will be important to deter civil unrest, several experts told the conference. Up until six months ago, the Department of Health and Human Services was planning privately for a pandemic but saying little publicly, said communications consultant Peter Sandman.

The shift may be due to President George W. Bush reading John Barry's "The Great Influenza," an account of the 1918 influenza pandemic during which government assured the public that it was just another seasonal flu outbreak, Sandman said. At the time, Barry said many communities were brought to a near standstill, with people afraid to talk to each other or care for the sick.

"When you mislead people, when you over-reassure people ... they feel less trusting, and they behave much worse," Sandman said.

...Meanwhile, government will have to address public skepticism about its ability to prepare for a pandemic, the official in charge of emergency preparedness at the Department of Health and Human Services said.
Well, count me among the skeptics. The lethality of this virus is still quite abstract to me. Icebergs are abstract to me too. Only cyberspace is real.

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