Friday, May 02, 2008

May 1 Flu Update

Excellent CIDRAP article on what would happen during a pandemic with school closures. HHS held a webinar...think about daycare and children who get significant nutrition from the lunch at school....for starters.

More on a suspected outbreak in South Korea.

A state in India is prepping for bird flu after it hits a neighboring state.

WHO denies it advised travelers for the Olympics to bring Tamiflu.

Beverly, MA is considering a flu committee.

A flu exercise will also be held in Micronesia....which sounds like something from Gulliver's Travels, but isn't.


At 10:52 AM, Blogger Wulfgang said...


Interesting you should comment about the impact of pandemic on school lunch programs. A little background on the programs is in order. School cafeteria’s get up to $ 2.47 a student from the fed’s to serve school lunches. After expenses, such as labor, transportation, utilities and equipment, schools are left with a little more than a dollar to put food on a tray. Costs typically run 25 cents for milk, 25 cents for fruit, and addition money if they want to serve vegetables. About 50 cents is left for the entrée. Many students pay for at least a portion of their lunch, as this contribution rises, the part covered by the government, drops, which leaves the school to cover the difference. These small margins have forced the schools to rely heavily on the USDA excess commodities program, for meat and cheese. Clearly, school lunch programs are “big business” both to school districts and for all the suppliers involved, and the only way a $ 2.47 meal can be produced. Of course the rising food prices recently, have thrown an unexpected monkey wrench into this system.

As pointed out in the CIDRAP article, neither federal nor state governments have food stockpiles set aside for any natural disasters, including a pandemic. The means the parents of school age children will be left to fend on their own, once schools are closed (calling it “students dismissals” is ridiculous – because learning will most probably not continue and teachers will not be functioning for some periods of time – a pandemic virus does not discriminate between students and teaching faculty). School officials and the HHS are treating the entire subject of pandemic planning as if it were a mild seasonal epidemic, which is a wrong approach.

Linking school closures to the five-level pandemic severity index, sounds good in theory, but it is also an incorrect approach to school closures. In order to be entirely effective to stop the spread of a deadly virus, the decision must be made promptly by school or health officials in advance (like Hong Kong did recently), so that infected children do not spread the virus to others, and they are self isolated in their homes. Since no specific guidance has been issued to school districts throughout the nation – expect chaos and panic because of delayed reactions as the virus would no doubt march through different regions of the country, according to the cycle theory of 1918 (our best bench mark).

I agree with the statement, “you won’t want to be caught during a pandemic not knowing who’s pulling the trigger”, and right now, very few know and even fewer are willing to step up and take that responsibility. That is why schools need very specific health and closure guidelines in advance, regardless of location throughout the US, to implement in short notice. Failure to close schools promptly almost guarantees that children and communities will be well into the “pandemic outbreak curve”.

As far as a “disaster food stamp program” ? This means that makeshift vouchers would be issued by the USDA for needy families to purchase food stuffs at nearby local commercial suppliers, like Sams, WalMart and Krogers. Nothing more. This really means that most likely there would be very limited food available anyplace, and if at all.

In my view, it all comes down to individual planning, something which most people in the US refuse to do, because of all kinds of excuses. Lost school lunches I guarantee will be the least of everyone’s worries during a severe pandemic.



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