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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. officials asked business, health and religious groups on Wednesday to urge Americans to prepare for a possible flu pandemic with steps like storing food and supplies and staying home if ill.
Health and Human Services Department officials met with about 100 representatives of various organizations as part of an effort to convince Americans that the threat from pandemic flu is real and advance preparations can save lives.
The H5N1 avian influenza virus, which has killed 190 people among more than 300 known cases since 2003, is considered the most likely candidate to cause a pandemic if it acquires the ability to infect people easily.
Business groups, insurers, school administrators, civic clubs, the American Red Cross, medical groups, and Roman Catholic, Baptist, Mormon, Lutheran, Jewish, Buddhist and Muslim representatives were among those taking part.
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Editorial: this is a difficult story to keep in front of people. Government and health officials are obviously concerned about “crying wolf“, urging preparation when no apparent disaster occurs. But not giving a warning can also result in a lack of preparation. Certainly there are endless debates on whether the message should be stronger, or is too strong already.
It is certain that there will be another pandemic. It is not a matter of IF, but a matter of WHEN. To believe that we are able to stop a pandemic would be the height of arrogance and foolishness. Pandemics have occurred every few decades throughout written history, and they are going to continue, despite any amount of effort that we expend to prevent them.
So why prepare for a pandemic? Here are some reasons:
- Slow the spread of disease, to give health authorities time to develop vaccines
- Equip families and businesses with the means to survive periods of reduced services
- Equip families and businesses with supplies that will be in short supply
So while we are not able to prevent a pandemic, we can prepare ourselves by having adequate supplies to weather the coming storm.