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Study Explores Flu Contingency Plan

School of Public Health researchers analyze proposed CDC plan

By Ronald K. Kamdem, Crimson Staff Writer

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) are conducting a survey that will determine whether Americans will comply with the government’s proposed non-pharmaceutical contingency plan for a flu pandemic.

The study comes on the heels of a government proposal to use primitive measures to control a killer flu outbreak until a vaccine and treatment drugs are available.

But HSPH experts say that the results of the study are still up in the air.

“I don’t think anyone can predict the outcome,” HSPH Professor of Health Policy and Management Robert J. Blendon said.

Under this contingency plan, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would promote traditional approaches for contagion control such as washing your hands or covering your mouth when you sneeze.

For his part, CDC quarantine chief Martin Cetron said that the results of the Harvard study could guide future methods of approaching the pandemic flu.

The CDC is “trying to get a public opinion of what people would

best respond to, and determine the right approach for contingency,” Certon said yesterday. “We are interested in getting public strategies and non-pharmaceutical approaches that people could try while dealing with the flu.”

The current pandemic threat results from an outbreak of avian influenza in Europe and in Asia.

Certon said that these basic methods of contagion control were necessary because they may be the only option.

“We may very well find ourselves in a situation where that’s all we’ve got for a period of time,” he told the Associated Press last Wednesday.

The CDC has proposed measures like using a facemask and the quarantine of those who are contagious, according to the CDC website.

But others say that there is no evidence for the efficacy of these hygiene tips on containing the spread of the pandemic virus.

More preparation needs to be done to account for the possibility of the flu pandemic, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota Michael T. Osterholm wrote in an editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“Each year, despite our efforts to increase the rates of influenza vaccination in our most vulnerable populations, unpredictable factors largely determine the burden of influenza disease and related deaths,” according to Osterholm’s editorial.

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