Maintaining water, power may be job one in pandemic

Jan 30, 2006 (CIDRAP News) – Keeping the taps flowing, the lights glowing, and food on the shelves may be a higher priority than caring for the ill during an influenza pandemic, the United Nations' coordinator for avian and pandemic flu has said.

"It may be more important to concentrate on the essentials of life for those who are living than it is to focus on the treatment of those who are sick," said David Nabarro, as quoted in a Jan 28 Reuters report following a pandemic simulation exercise.

The simulation focused on what might happen in one European country 40 days into a pandemic, according to Reuters and a Jan 29 story by TurkishPress.com. The exercise, run in connection with the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, revealed preparedness gaps.

"It is only as governments have begun to do simulations that countries are realizing they are nowhere near prepared for the kind of damage this does," TurkishPress.com quoted Nabarro as saying. "If we do not all work together effectively and get properly prepared, we will be badly hit by that pandemic."

Every government now has a preparedness plan, according to Nabarro's remarks as quoted by the Turkish Web site. Other parts of society must be involved as well, however. Governmental groups, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and media have "real potential for synergies and coordination," he added.

The UN is examining fixed partnerships with key groups, including businesses, to respond to a pandemic, Nabarro said.

"The focus on business is important," Reuters quoted Nabarro as saying. "They have skills and can do things that governments cannot."

Communications will also be important, he added. One idea: The UN is contemplating using "flu-casters" operating in a World Health Organization bunker to broadcast flu updates much as television weather forecasters predict conditions.

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