Friday, November 04, 2005

Who, Besides Governments, Should Have Plans for a Pandemic?

Every state and community should have a plan to deal with the possible outbreak of an Avian Flu pandemic...and, I'm beginning to think, every church, synagogue, mosque, school, social service agency, and retailer should as well.

If the H5N1 virus mutates, making human-to-human conveyance of the disease possible, as seems likely, the failure to have such plans could prove fatal in the extreme.

The reason I say that?

Avian Flu far quicker and deadlier than the influenza strains with which most of us are familiar. Thus far, half of all humans who have contracted the disease through close contact with infected bird populations, have died. Avian Flu is so deadly because its symptoms seem to show up within twenty-four hours of exposure and within seventy-two hours, its victims can be dead. It's far quicker and more deadly than the influenza strains with which most of us are familiar.

If an outbreak arises, the most sensible responses will be to blunt its spread by limiting possible exposure.
  • Faith communities may want to plan on suspending their regular weekly worship and some other church activities.
  • Schools and social service agencies may also have to suspend normal operations.
  • Retailers may have to close up shop for a time. (If that's necessary for the good of all, it would seem that federal and state governments should make sure that they're not swamped by the debt they likely would pile up during a shut-down.)
Fortunately, in this age of the Internet, faith communities, schools and agencies, and retailers will be able to conduct some form of their ordinary work.
  • As we saw exemplified in many of the New Orleans faith communities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it is possible for pastors and congregations to share spiritual sustenance via email, pastors' blogs, chat rooms, and church web sites. In fact, it will be easier to do this in the face of an Avian Flu pandemic than it was after Katrina, because populations will be less dispersed.
  • In an emergency, social service agencies and retailers might make similar use of cyberspace, not to mention the telephone and conventional mass media.
  • Long term, of course, direct human-to-human contact is both optimal and really, what we all need. This need for human fellowship has been built into our DNA by God. The call to love God and love neighbor, which is how Jesus summarizes all of God's Law, is not just a command, it is our privilege.
But if a pandemic hits, it will be essential to deal with it in ways that are compassionate, sensible, and innovative.

UPDATE: One suggestion I intended to include in this post and then forgot, is that faith communities make their buildings available for use as temporary hospitals during any pandemic. There is a long tradition of this in Christianity, of course, and in fact, the first hospitals were Christian institutions. I can't think of a better or more practical way of sharing the love of Jesus Christ. Surveys indicate that should a pandemic arise, there won't be enough hospital beds in the whole country to accommodate the ill. In Massachusetts, they plan to use college dorm facilities, which is also smart.


Richard Lawrence Cohen said...

Planning and foresight will be of the essence, and this post illustrates those qualities.

BFuniv said...

I think we can count on individuals and faith based groups, no great plans required.

I think we can count on government to screw it up. The more they plan, the less they accomplish.

The overwhelming odds are a pandemic will not happen this time, and next week there will be a new panic.

Whatever does eventually hit us will probably be a surprise.

Mark Daniels said...

I appreciate your comment.

I hope that you're right about the odds being against this particular pandemic. But there can be no doubt that one day, such an event will happen. When it does, we'll be glad about the plans that have been made.

Thanks to both of your for dropping by and for your comments.


Unknown said...

What is it about is that we can on one hand run around like chicken little and on the other wait for everyone else to plan what to do when the sky is falling?

I agree, Mark, we should have a plan. We used to have plans for everything--fire drills, tornado drills--earthquake drills--did some person get these legislated out of the way?

No government can care for a country this size in such a pandemic should it come and though my faith tells me it won't, I think my God would want us to care enough for ourselves and others to have things ready in case it did.

Thanks for this post, Mark.


Mark Daniels said...

Frankly, it's easier to complain and worry than it is to pray and plan. The Bible says we should avoid the first two things and do the other two.

Thanks again for dropping by and for your comments.


Tidy Bowl said...

Frankly, I'm starting to think that people are getting more excited than they need to be about this bird flu/pandemic. I'm a first-year teacher, and if you ask any teacher, they'll tell you that your first year is your sickest (because you are adjusting to all the germs). So naturally I want a flu shot... but far be it from me to find one! Every flu shot clinic - and I mean EVERY flu shot clinic - in our area is cancelled. My doctor doesn't have any flu shots. I have called as far as 100 miles away, and no one has any flu shots! The American Red Cross is out of flu shots - what does that tell you? I guess I'm just going to have to cross my fingers and pray that I don't get sick.

Unknown said...

Hi Mark,
Hope you don't think that I'm not praying and plannin my heart out. :)

Mark Daniels said...

If I conveyed that misunderstanding of what you wrote, please know that I miscommunicated. You were clear and I didn't think that you were denigrating either prayer or planning.

Thanks, as always, for your comments!