Tuesday, April 28, 2009
What happens if the swine flu outbreak becomes the dreaded worst case scenario?
According to planning reports reviewed by the Associated Press and interviews with planners, government leaders and major employers have spent four years planning for one in series of exercises if the worst happens:
A full-scale pandemic could claim the lives of about 2 percent of those infected, or about 2 million Americans.
• 90 million Americans sickened or about 30 percent of the population
• 1.5 million would need intensive care
• 750,000 would need the help of mechanical ventilators to breath
• Hospitals overwhelmed
• People would be isolated and their relatives could be quarantined
• Schools closed
• An economic recovery snuffed out
• Food and water shortages
• Hotels, restaurants and airline business grinds to a halt
• Empty seats at baseball stadiums and houses of worship
The Trust for America’s Health, an independent public health group, estimated in 2007 that a severe pandemic would shrink U.S. economic output by 5.5 percent.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said on Monday that the U.S. is preparing as if the swine flu outbreak were a full pandemic. It is not at that stage and may never reach it. Even if the new swine flu from Mexico turns out to be especially aggressive, the worst consequences could be averted.
Disease detectives are following a series of outbreaks, of varying severity, all of which appear to be related to Mexico. A pandemic would spread throughout the world with explosive speed.
The government got serious about worst case planning during the 2005 bird flu scare.