Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Toronto Not Prepared for Pandemic;
and quarantine won't work

If a Pandemic, such as Avian Flu, were to hit Toronto, the city's health professionals would not be able to deal with it very well, according to David McKeown, the city's medical officer of health [from National Post; Date: Nov 25, 2005; Section: Toronto; Page: 15 ($, no link available), h/t to Jack]:
A severe pandemic could render as many as 914,000 people sick, hospitalize 14,000 individuals and cause 4,300 deaths, according to Toronto Public Health.

If faced with this worst-case scenario, hospitals may be forced to reject some patients, either those suffering from the flu or those with other ailments. “In any emergency, whether it is a plane crash that sends a bunch of people to the emergency room or a city-wide pandemic, the health care system will set priorities and triage to make sure the most urgent health needs are attended to,” Dr. McKeown said.

An extreme outbreak would overwhelm not only hospitals, but also morgues. The city could be forced to store dead bodies in refrigerated trailers, said Barbara Yaffe, director of communicable disease control.

A second public health report released yesterday suggested quarantine measures cut disease transmission rates by about 50% during the SARS outbreak in 2003. However, because the incubation time for influenza is far shorter than for SARS, officials do not think quarantine would control a flu pandemic.

“Influenza is also very highly infectious and will likely be transmitted widely in the community before contacts could be identified and placed in quarantines,” Dr. Yaffe said.

The doctor added it is unclear whether wearing surgical masks would protect the public during an outbreak, saying that further study is needed. “There is currently no evidence available that the use of masks in public settings will be protective when the influenza virus is circulating widely,” Dr. Yaffe said. “However, we do know that individuals that wear a surgical mask properly at the time of exposure may benefit from the barrier provided.”
Jack's assessment:
Acknowledgement that short incubation period for H5N1 would likely render quarantine efforts ineffective and also that the emerging plan seems to be steering towards protection of 'key' personnel rather than saturating early invasion zones, as the WHO plan outlines. Inability of hospital system to handle even current load is admitted. Mormonize, I say. Those old nuclear bunkers of the 50's are going up in value ....
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